Citrix XenServer has added several new capabilities in recent versions, including high availability and Active Directory support. But some solutions providers are wondering if they're enough to draw customers to XenServer and help it compete with other hypervisors.
The most important thing to determine in a hypervisor comparison between Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere is, which will best meet your customer's requirements? Licensing, pricing and ease of installation are some of the factors you and your customer will need to consider.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
•XenServer licensing and configuration
•XenServer and Active Directory
•More Citrix XenServer and hypervisor comparison resources
Hypervisor comparison: Citrix XenServer, VMware vSphere and
Microsoft Hyper-V R2
Different organizations have different requirements for their virtual environments and, therefore, for their hypervisors. Citrix XenServer is an appealing option for smaller customers looking for an inexpensive hypervisor, but it does have its limitations. For other customers, VMware, Hyper-V and even open source Xen may be a better fit.
Comparing Hyper-V R2, vSphere and XenServer
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of Hyper-V R2, vSphere and XenServer will go a long way toward helping customers make good virtualization decisions in a hypervisor comparison. If your customers are looking for a cost-efficient option, XenServer includes free live migration and physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-virtual conversions. But customers who are drawn to the free offering should know that XenServer has the least amount of vendor and partner support among the top hypervisors.
Choosing vSphere vs. Hyper-V vs. XenServer
VMware's advanced features have vSphere ahead of the pack in the virtualization battle, but Citrix XenServer has a certain appeal among some customers, even though it has yet to be fully embraced. XenServer is popular with shops that use other Citrix products, and it also appeals to smaller companies. But our expert says widespread XenServer adoption hasn't happened yet because it's still an immature product.
Open source Xen vs. Citrix XenServer
Customers focused on Xen virtualization have the option of choosing between XenServer and other open source Xen distributions from vendors such as Red Hat, Oracle and Novell. When picking among these options, price and the availability of management tools should be major considerations. In most cases, XenServer's price tag (free) and mature tools make it the popular choice over open source Xen.
Citrix XenServer licensing and configuration
Sorting through licensing options and configuring Citrix XenServer are two of the areas where solutions providers can add the most value for their customers. Licensing changed considerably with the release of XenServer 5.6, which eliminated Citrix Essentials as a separate product. And the configuration process, while not overly complex, does involve several important steps.
Which XenServer 5.6 edition is right for you?
There are four different XenServer 5.6 editions to meet customers' different needs: free, advanced, enterprise and platinum. The free version offers everything your customers need for a basic virtual infrastructure. And the platinum edition, which costs $5,000 per server, targets large, multi-site organizations and includes several advanced features, including automated disaster recovery and lifecycle management.
Installing Citrix XenServer and XenCenter
Installing Citrix XenServer software isn't a difficult task, but solutions providers need to make sure they carefully follow each step and verify that their customers have the correct hardware. This process will require you to make important decisions about storage allocation, password management and assigning an IP address. And you can download and install XenCenter from a Windows workstation that you also plan to use as your own management workstation.
Citrix XenServer and Active Directory
When Citrix integrated Active Directory (AD) into XenServer, it gave solutions providers new flexibility around managing XenServer. But before reaping the benefits of AD integration, you need to take the time to authenticate and configure it in your customer's environment.
Benefits of XenServer 5.5 Active Directory authentication
Solutions providers must enable Active Directory authentication to ensure that AD and XenServer are using the same domain name server (DNS), which can be accomplished by using the AD DNS server. You can use the XenCenter interface or the command line to enter the commands that will enable AD authentication.
Citrix adds Active Directory integration to XenServer 5.5
The addition of Active Directory integration to XenServer is important to solutions providers because it eases XenServer management. With AD integration, role-based access can now be assigned to users and groups via user account provisioning. Configuring AD-integrated security pools in XenServer hosts is simple as well and can be authenticated in the Pool menu.
Citrix fills gap with XenServer Active Directory support
Solutions providers checked role-based access control off their want lists after Citrix added Active Directory support for XenServer 5.5. Role-based access control, previously a deal-ender for users, will affect the decisions of enterprise users who thought the process of logging into XenServer wasn't worth the trouble. This addition also made XenServer more competitive in the hypervisor war among Citrix, VMware and Microsoft.
This was first published in July 2010