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XenServer, split from Citrix, promises per-socket prices 'unlike certain other hypervisors'

Yeah, we know: Cost alone won't lead to success. But it may be hiring, unlike certain other tech giants

The server virtualization market has a new/old player that wants to make waves with keen pricing and a plan to improve its tech: XenServer.

XenServer is a Citrix product the company acquired from XenSource in 2007 – a year in which server consolidation was all the rage and VMware had emerged as the market leader.

XenServer did decently for Citrix in the years that followed, but Virtzilla came to dominate the market and Microsoft started all but giving away Hyper-V, and by so doing captured a chunk of the market itself.

In around 2014, by which time server virtualization had become more about private clouds, Citrix more or less admitted defeat in its attempt to compete with VMware and Microsoft, and started to concentrate on making XenServer the best environment for its own apps.

That approach kind of worked. Citrix pointed to good adoption rates for XenServer among users of its other products, but its lack of focus on XenServer saw it forked as XCP-ng.

Citrix eventually ditched the Xen name and went with Citrix Hypervisor.

But since Citrix was absorbed into the Cloud Software Group (CSG), it has quietly revealed that XenServer has morphed into a member of the CSG – making it a standalone business instead of just a Citrix product.

XenServer has since teased "significant investment" in the product – including hiring staff to make that happen – and early in 2023 dropped the following little nugget of info:

One of the "certain other hypervisors" mentioned is almost certainly VMware's ESXi.

VMware users often grumble about the price of the virtualization giant's wares, with a fresh round of unease following the February 2020 licensing tweaks designed to charge more for its software on many-core CPUs.

VMWare users may also be especially sensitive to pricing issues, or susceptible to migration temptations, at this time due to the business's imminent takeover by Broadcom.

The Register asked CSG to detail its strategy and ambitions for XenServer, but was told "the team isn't available at the moment." Nor were we told when a moment might present itself. We therefore have no detail on the outfit's technology or hiring plans, or if the latter remain in place given they were teased before CSG laid off 15 percent of its staff.

The virtualization market is mature and settled, so it's hard to see XenServer shaking things up too much. Players who have tried to introduce new hypervisors have also generally not become runaway successes: Nutanix's AHV has carved out a niche without seriously disrupting the market, while the likes of Scale Computing that have created their own cuts of open source hypervisors remain small players.

But XenServer does have an installed base to defend, a price differentiator, the chance to build something compelling, and VMware customers who have reasons to be receptive to alternatives.

When the XenServer team finds a moment for a chat, we'll bring you more news of its plans. ®

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