As speculation looms around plans from Citrix to release Citrix XenServer as open source, it's worthwhile to analyze how such a move would impact other leading software vendors in the virtualization space.
On February 23, 2009 Citrix announced that it will give away the full version of Citrix XenServer for free. Since Citrix is not generating any revenue from XenServer, open sourcing it seems like a logical step. But how will such a move impact the marketplace? Why would Citrix spend $500M on XenSource and then make Citrix XenServer open source?
As a Microsoft partner, Citrix understands that it's better to cooperate than to compete with the software giant, particularly in the server virtualization space. By open-sourcing Citrix XenServer, Citrix would:
- Expand Citrix XenServer market share and drive additional revenue through virtualization management software such as Citrix Essentials.
- Offer enterprises an open-source alternative to Microsoft Hyper-V with feature parity and high degree of interoperability.
- Increase community-based support for development and maintenance of Citrix XenServer, rather than funding R&D completely.
- Enhance adoption and survivability of Citrix XenServer by getting other software vendors such as Novell and Oracle to support it.
Microsoft benefits the most from this move because there would be an open-source server virtualization alternative that would isolate two other Linux-based virtualization platform vendors: Red Hat and VMware. In other words, Microsoft is squeezing these vendors from one side with Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V and from the other side with the help of Citrix XenServer.
As a company that already has good relationships with both Citrix and Microsoft, Novell has an opportunity to provide virtualization management capabilities across these two platforms. It already does this with the PlateSpin family of products. Novell may also do a port of Citrix XenServer to Novell SUSE but this is probably not a trivial effort and would take quite a bit of time.
Oracle VM is already based on the Xen hypervisor. Whether Oracle decides to adopt Citrix XenServer depends on whether Oracle wants to give away its intellectual property to the open source community or to build dominance in the server virtualization space on its own. However, given its active participation in the Xen community, support for open source development model and antagonism towards Red Hat, Oracle may just throw its weight behind an open source Citrix XenServer.
In a nutshell Citrix, Microsoft, Novell and Oracle have a lot to gain from an open source Citrix XenServer, while Red Hat and VMware have a lot to lose from such a move. Perhaps Citrix will also rename Citrix XenServer back to XenSource Server?!
Update (November 2, 2009)
According to an interview with Simon Crosby, CTO at Citrix, XenServer will be open-sourced but the following components will not be:
- Citrix XenCenter
- Citrix XenConvert
- Drivers for Microsoft Windows