XenServer is back, with a rebranded Citrix Hypervisor and a tasty three-host freebie

Per-socket licensing regime may explain years of ups and downs

XenServer, the Cloud-Software-Group-owned server virtualization spinout from Citrix, has debuted its new/old product, XenServer 8.

It's essentially a rebrand of Citrix Hypervisor 8.2 CU1, with the most recent additions and patches applied. It does much of what's needed to run a software-defined datacenter: the inclusion of the Xen Project's hypervisor allows it to host virtual machines across a pool of hardware, move VMs without disruption, dynamically control memory allocations, manage a VM fleet with XenCenter, and connect VMs over a virtual network. Modern features like virtualizing GPUs and support for virtual trusted platform modules are also present, the latter enabling guests to run Windows 10, 11 and Server 2022. A VMware-to-XenServer migration tool is also included.

Table stakes, in other words.

XenServer – the company – is offering three versions of XenServer – the product.

The Trial Edition may be the most interesting, as it includes many advanced features but is limited to three hosts. That makes it a handy potential replacement for the free version of ESXi that VMware by Broadcom recently withdrew.

The two paid versions of XenServer – Standard and Premium – are licensed per socket. The Register can find no reference to core count limits on XenServer's licensing info page.

A Premium license is required to run Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops.

On LinkedIn, XenServer – the company – explained its change to per-socket licenses as a Know Your Customer issue, borrowing the term most often used to describe financial institutions' obligation to ensure they don't have terrorists or money launderers as clients.

Xen Server's need to know its customers stems from the fact it struggles to track them today.

"Today we are unable to identify which Citrix customers are using Citrix Hypervisor. The reason for this is that the current licensing mechanism used by Citrix Hypervisor for Citrix users simply bears witness to the presence of a requisite CVAD/Citrix DaaS license – it does not actually check the license out (ie decrement the number of licenses based on actual usage). This means we are unable to gather any license usage data or determine which Citrix customers are using Citrix Hypervisor," explains the LinkedIn post.

XenServer users will now have to use the same licensing appliance Citrix requires of its users, and apply a socket-based license.

"This is a license type that the existing Citrix License Server can provide usage telemetry on. With this insight we will, for the first time, start to see who our Citrix customers actually are."

Readers may recall that Citrix has had many ups, downs, and near-death experiences over its history. Not knowing who its customers were may have contributed to that problem.

XenServer and Citrix are offering free promo licenses that cover the contract period for existing Citrix Hypervisor users, with up to 10,000 Premium socket licenses offered.

Users of Citrix Hypervisor will need to wrap their heads around that offer and the rest of XenServer licensing, or alternatives, by June 25, 2025 – when the Citrix product reaches end of life.

The Register has made several requests to XenServer for a briefing on its strategy and plans, none of which generated a response.

We are therefore unable to offer commentary on how XenServer plans to compete in the so-hot-right now market for server virtualization created by Broadcom's acquisition of VMware and subsequent swingeing changes to licensing policies.

We've asked again, and hope to bring you news of XenServer's resurgence in the near future. Or if XenServer's talking to you, let us know. ®

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