The Great Hypervisor Giveaway

By Kenneth Hess (Send Email)
Posted Mar 4, 2009


Ken Hess
You're probably in that middle ground somewhere between needing to save money on your in-house IT services and outsourcing the whole thing to an external vendor. However, you can't quite see yourself giving up any convenience or control just to cut those costs. It's hard to give up control of your local computing assets and services, but you need to put your ailing budget on the treadmill. Problem solved. You can do both by moving your hard assets to virtual ones and there's a strong possibility that you can do it at no cost.

Cover Your Assets: If you've been waiting for someone to lower the cash required for a physical to virtual conversion, your wait is over.

On February 23, Citrix announced that its XenServer 5 product is now free-saving you a whopping $5,000-plus per server. With savings like that, how can you go wrong? The truth is, you can't.

No Purchase Required

The decision to make XenServer free is a clever one. First, it almost guarantees adoption by those who were holding off on the decision to go with virtualized infrastructure due to the increased initial costs. Second, cloud computing businesses, already more than 90 percent Xen technology, will flourish with new offerings and lower pricing. Third, Citrix is hoping that the upsurge in XenServer adoptions will boost its new enterprise management software (Essentials) sales and service. Finally, the hope is this move will have a negative impact on VMware's dominance in the virtualization software market.

You don't have to purchase Essentials for your Xen-virtualized environment, but for those companies with very large virtual infrastructures, it is an essential add-on.

Hardware Requirements

To use XenServer 5, you'll need a dedicated server system equipped with modern hardware. You probably have one sitting in your server room unhappily idling away instead of flexing its virtual muscles for you. The following system description is the minimum required for a positive experience with XenServer: AMD or Intel dual-core 64bit CPU with 4GB of RAM and large (greater than 250GB) internal disks or array (XenServer supports both IDE and SATA drives). You'll also need a Windows computer from which to manage your Xen server(s). Any Windows computer works for the XenCenter management system, and it doesn't have to be dedicated to this task.

Virtualization extensions, enabled via the system's BIOS, are necessary for this technology and are often disabled by default.

Linux Skills Not Required

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Citrix XenServer 5 is a powerful, enterprise-class, scalable hypervisor that's yours for the taking. No strings. No cost. No limitations. If you're worried about having the necessary skills to manage a Linux-based virtualization solution, don't be. If you can download software from a web page, burn it to a CD-R, boot from that CD and press the ENTER key a few times on your keyboard — congratulations, you have the skills. Once installed, you manage your new system via the local, menu-driven console or a Windows application (XenCenter 5). There's a good chance that you'll never interact with the Linux operating system at all, and that's great news for your in-house Windows gurus.

Specialized Training Not Required

Will your staff need a lot of not so free training once you've downloaded and installed this otherwise free product? No. In fact, XenCenter is so easy to use, you're bound to wonder why you didn't make this leap earlier regardless of its cost. Anyone who's worked with a virtualization product before, even Microsoft's Virtual PC, will be right at home with XenCenter. The manual and online help is enough to answer most of your questions and to have you up and running with Xen in a very short amount of time.

The Xen hypervisor is the most technologically advanced virtualization software available at a price that can't be beat. Should you decide to keep your computing resources local instead of outsourcing, virtualization is your answer. Less expensive than conventional racked server systems, you'll enjoy virtualization's power and convenience but still maintain that feel of localized control. This frugal choice is easy. Your chief requirement is time.

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