Citrix Xenserver: Xen or Hyper-V? Does it matter?

Seems there’s a bit of debate at the moment about the future of Xen within Citrix’s product range, all sparked by this article by Brian Madden, which he clarified later on.

Brian’s followup clarifies his point:

When I say that Citrix will drop Xen, I mean that Citrix will drop the open source Xen hypervisor. I do not believe that Citrix will drop their XenServer product.

When you consider that Citrix Xenserver is a hypervisor based virtualisation stack (Xen on CentOS), and a virtualisation management tool (XenCenter), then sure, it’s possible for Citrix to change XenCenter so that it manages Windows Hyper-V instead. Xenserver, the product and brand, becomes a Windows 2008 Hyper-V install, and XenCenter manages that instead. It’s possible. Scott’s comments about porting Xen to windows missed the mark – Citrix only need to port the management stack and change the virtualisation layer to windows. RedHat are in the process of doing something similar with their recent move away from Xen to KVM. It’s not as radical a shift as from Xen to Hyper-V, but it’s as radical as you need to be – it’s a completely different virtualisation stack.

I’m still not sure I agree with Brian though. Citrix just dropped $550M on purchasing Xensource, and then promptly rebranded their flagship product to match. Granted, Citrix have a great track record for rebranding every couple of years, but it seems like a colossal waste of money given that Hyper-V, while not released at the time, was defintely public knowledge.

Citrix also have no need to drop the Xen out from under Xenserver. Citrix Workflow Studio already handles some automation tasks for both Xenserver and Hyper-V, and it’s no stretch to see this working on VMWare systems as well. Moreover, XenCenter itself could be modified to manage both Xen-based Xenserver systems as well as Windows Hyper-V systems. The reverse will definitely happen from Microsoft’s point of view – integration with XenServer in Microsoft’s Systems Center Operations Manager has been talked about for months now.

One prediction that is worth making is that cross-VM management stacks will flourish and improve. The example of Hyper-V and Xenserver was mentioned earlier, but they will grow to cover other assorted Xen based stacks from Virtual Iron, Novell, Sun etc, KVM stacks like RedHat, and of course VMWare. Citrix Workflow Studio makes a start in some ways, and products like VMLogix’s Lab Manager. Enomalism is already much of the way there, and goes a step beyond into cloud computing. The hypervisor (or at least, some kind of virtualisation) will be ubiquitous, and the winners will be the management stacks.

3 replies on “Citrix Xenserver: Xen or Hyper-V? Does it matter?”


Thanks for reading! I could see Citrix possibly moving into cross-platform virtualization management, whether via XenCenter or something else. To me, though, this just doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Microsoft is already hard at work building VMM 2008 into a cross-platform management tool, and XenCenter is still just focused on managing XenServer. It seems they would have a great deal of catching up to do. Of course, I’m no expert, so I could very well be completely wrong.

As I mentioned in my post, though, it would make a great deal of sense for Citrix to make XenDesktop work well with Hyper-V. The same goes for Citrix Provisioning Server and Citrix Application Streaming; both of these could add tremendous value to a Hyper-V installation (heck, they add value to a VMware installation). These are areas where Citrix could really help round out Hyper-V’s functionality, much like Presentation Server (er, XenApp) helps to round out Terminal Services’ functionality.

Hey Scott

Thanks for the comment. Every time I hear about XenDesktop from Citrix, they’re saying “it’s VM agnostic”. They don’t want you to think you have to replace your existing VMWare infrastructure with XenServer. So adding Hyper-V as a backend for XenDesktop seems trivial. I’m not Citrix though, so who knows :)

Hi Daniel,
Thank you for recognizing VMLogix LabManager in your post as a hypervisor agnostic management application. You are spot on and this commitment to being hypervisor independent is core to our product strategy.

We recently (last week) announced support of Microsoft Hyper-V as well. You can check out some screenshots and a demo movie on our blog —

Like it has been noted in the industry, we are the first in the segment to offer this capability to our customers.


Srihari Palangala

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