Citrix takes the battle to VMware with launch of XenServer 6.1

XenServer gets enhanced integration with Apache CloudStack along with other cloud-centric features

Citrix is raising its virtualization battle with VMware to a whole other level. The company recently released the latest version of its server virtualization platform, XenServer 6.1. But instead of just focusing on new hypervisor features and functionality that would directly compete with vSphere, Citrix is leveling up its virtualization data center product to create a next-generation platform for IaaS (infrastructure as a service) cloud computing.

XenServer 6.1 is an enhanced version of the Citrix server virtualization platform that moves further up the stack by offering tighter integration with the Apache CloudStack and Citrix CloudPlatform. New cloud-related capabilities will help users easily partition firewalls, balance workloads, and prevent attacks on systems in both public and private cloud environments, according to Citrix.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Is VMware an OpenStack friend, foe, or frenemy? | VMTurbo Operations Manager 3.2 expands cloud control | Track the latest trends in virtualization in InfoWorld's Virtualization Report newsletter. ]

"The tight integration between XenServer and CloudPlatform demonstrated in XenServer 6.1 will provide a new level of manageability and security that will provide a strategic advantage for our cloud customers," said Peder Ulander, vice president of product marketing for the Cloud Platforms Group at Citrix.

After acquiring in July 2011, Citrix made a strategic decision to change course and remove itself from the OpenStack equation earlier this year and instead contribute the CloudStack code to the Apache Foundation, establishing a new open source alternative to OpenStack.

While things are still in the relatively early stages for both cloud groups, OpenStack has been getting much more media attention, most recently because of the group's newest board member: VMware. It remains to be seen whether VMware's joining OpenStack will have a positive or negative effect on the open source cloud group.

But what if your organization isn't quite ready to make the move to the cloud? Don't worry, XenServer 6.1 isn't just about the CloudStack integration. There are other hypervisor features in this release that can stand on their own, though they also extend further support to the cloud. These key features include: live storage migration, improved network security, and VM conversion.

One of the key new features in XenServer 6.1 is most certainly something called Storage XenMotion, which is very similar to the "share nothing" architectures introduced in Microsoft's Hyper-V 3.0 platform and VMware's vSphere 5.1. This is a key technology for Citrix because it not only ticks another check box on the features parity list when compared to other hypervisors, it adds a key component that most modern virtualization and cloud users are currently demanding: virtual machine mobility and storage mobility without the need for expensive and complicated hardware.

According to Citrix, XenMotion works equally well across all storage types and without being confined to an arbitrary resource pool concept. The new storage feature allows virtualization administrators to move and live migrate virtual machines from one physical server to another without requiring a SAN. That means XenMotion will make use of local, direct-attached storage on the host servers, and there is no requirement for clustering or shared storage between servers.

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