Citrix, HP team up on virtualization-enabled servers

XenServer hypervisor to be embedded on ProLiant servers

A Citrix-HP partnership accelerates a trend of embedding server virtualization software into hardware.

Citrix Systems has embedded its XenServer hypervisor into HP's ProLiant servers, accelerating a trend in which virtualization software increasingly is becoming just another part of the hardware, the company said Thursday.

VMware CTO Stephen Herrod recently predicted that "within a few years all servers will come virtualization-enabled." A slimmed-down version of VMware’s hypervisor will begin shipping soon on HP, Dell, IBM, Fujitsu and Siemens servers. Now Citrix --which bought XenSource last year in a bid to challenge VMware’s virtualization market supremacy -- says 10 HP ProLiant servers will ship with the XenServer hypervisor by March 31.

The HP deal is the high point in XenSource's history, says Simon Crosby, who founded XenSource and is now CTO of Citrix's virtualization division. "It's really the high point in our whole development to date," he says. "When we founded the company we always wanted the hypervisor to be in hardware." Citrix virtualization technology will eventually be embedded on Lenovo, Dell and NEC servers as well, but the integration with HP is the most extensive and a result of nine months of development, he says.

The HP servers, known as Citrix XenServer HP Select Edition, will have all the same features as a stand-alone hypervisor but will be easier to install and use, Crosby says. Using HP management tools, the interface will have the simplicity of the Mac, he says. The goal is to make the virtualization software practically invisible. "When you turn the thing on you basically don't even see us," he says.

Administrators will be able to see the consoles for all virtual machines at once and easily zoom in on any of them. Customers can upgrade with a license key change to access more powerful features that make it easier to provision virtual and physical servers.

Citrix already is in a good position against Microsoft in terms of technology, says Jeffrey Gaggin, an enterprise software analyst for Avian Securities. Microsoft's upcoming Hyper-V lacks key features like live migration; the ability to instantly move virtual machines from one physical server to another; and hot-add, the ability to add memory to a server while it's running Gaggin writes in a research note released Thursday. 

The HP deal now improves Citrix's position against VMware, Gaggin writes. "We think this announcement should raise the awareness of Citrix XenServer from a marketing aspect and put them more on par with VMware from a technology stand-point," he states.

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