El Reg pokes Citrix, Citrix bites back. Do we have a XenServer storage plan now?

The Register's Ashlee Vance wrote an article last week about Citrix XenServer 4.1. Vance is upset with Citrix because before the acquisition, XenSource had announced that the next version of their server product would include Symantec's Veritas Storage Foundation software built-in.

The Register's Ashlee Vance wrote an article last week about Citrix XenServer 4.1. In typical Reg-style snarky tone, Vance is upset with Citrix because before the acquisition, XenSource had announced that the next version of their server product would include Symantec's Veritas Storage Foundation software built-in. But when Citrix finally released the XenServer 4.1 beta last week, the Symantex Veritas code was nowhere to be found.

I tend to believe you can excuse a company for not living up to comments about future product direction after that company has been acquired. I mean in this case, this is a line-item feature that pre-acquisition XenSource was going to add to a product. These kinds of comments tend to cause trouble when current customers feel "duped" into buying a product based on some future feature, although in this case, I can't imagine any of XenSource's pre-acquisition customers actually getting upset, because Citrix is adding a lot more features then they're taking away. Of course The Register thinks this is a nice conspiracy story.

It gets better. Citrix's XenServer CTO, Simon Crosby, responded to Vance on the Citrix Community Blog. (This is why blogging by vendors rocks!) Crosby echoed my thoughts, basically saying, "Look, we signed that Symantec deal before Citrix bought us. Obviously things have changed since then." So far, so good. But then it gets weird. Crosby goes on to say that the technical integration between XenServer and Symantec Storage Foundation is 100% complete, but they pulled it out of the product because Citrix's channel is not ready to support it??!? (My point being that this server-based computing, Windows-heavy channel is somehow magically ready to support XenServer, but not a line-item feature of it?)

Crosby also said that now that they're part of Citrix, the XenSource group is looking to expand their partnership with Symantec. This could be tricky, though, because Symantec competes with Citrix in several areas. (Security, Application Virtualization, Management) In fact I've written in the past that Symantec might be a good company to buy Citrix, although Citrix is getting bigger and bigger so that may not be possible anymore.

Another conspiracy-theory option is that perhaps Citrix is getting ready to make their own play in the storage virtualization space, perhaps by buying a company like DataCore or Sanbolic. XenDisk anyone?  

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I can see Citrix buying DataCore but not Sanbolic.  Sanbolic is nothing more than the ability to cluster/mirror disk luns.  The only product that would benefit would be PVS and only then for Enterprise Customers with an Expensive FC infrastructure.  A DataCore buyout would make more sense and they not only do FC/iSCSI, they can do Replication, Snapshoting and thin-provisioning.



I can see the DataCore acquisition, but I know that Compellent is working closely with the folks in Ft Lauderdale.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Citrix snap up this company that grew 124% last year vs. 2006 and had $16.9 million in revenue.  Their customer base has increased 107% since the end of 06.

My two cents



I think the most important statements in Ashlee's article were not about the Symantec relationship but rather these:

Also with 4.1, Citrix has renamed and improved Presentation Server, which now sells under the XenApp brand

This statement may explain why Citrix renamed CPS to XenApp. As we all know CPS/XenApp is in no way shape or form a feature of XenServer. Indeed XenApp does not contain any XenSource code what-so-ever. Yet the fact that a person such as Ashlee sees it as such means that Citrix may now able to leverage its XenApp product as a means to promote XenServer.

Thanks to some engineering efforts XenApp will now fly when used in conjunction with XenServer and Xen virtual machines

This is where it goes from marketing to engineering and becomes really interesting. If Citrix will be able to demonstrate that XenApp works much better on XenServer than any other hypervisor (including Hyper-V ?) then it will be a strong selling point for XenServer, at least for existing Citrix customers.

XenApp has been improved with XenServer 4.1. Presentation Server was never really a good server to be virtualized except under certain situations. But the integration between XenServer 4.1 and XenApp 4.5 now makes it a far more likely candidate for a virtualized server than it was before. The performance hit of being vitualized on XenServer 4.1 is far less than it was on XenServer 4.0 and VMware. Then when you add on a product such as Marathon Technologies, you can now make your ICA sessions fault tolerant. If a XenApp server on XenServer 4.1 with Marathon goes down, the users won't even know. Their ICA sessions don't break or end. And this Marathon stuff doesn't even work on VMware, despite it winning the vendor of the year award at last years VMworld. Such a person as Ashlee obviously understands these improvements. Do you?

If you noticed, Citrix also announced a partnership with NetApp when they did the XenServer 4.1 announcement. It doesn't sound to me like they're getting ready to dive into the storage business themselves. More likely that they found the fit with NetApp to be a higher priority than Symantec. NetApp is a perfect fit with the big mid-market push Citrix is making with XenServer through its channel. Symantec is still interesting, but they're not nearly as good a fit as NetApp on that front.

I suspect that's what Crosby was talking about. XenSource did the techincal work, but all the go-to-market efforts as part of Citrix are now being aimed at building a big volume mid-market business, and Symantec doesn't buy them a lot on that front. Better to partner with NetApp first, then go back and wrap up the Veritas work for larger datacenters.


Fault Tolerant ICA sessions?  That's a joke..  The chances the OS crashes is a lot higher than hardware failure.

Marathon doesn't load balance the hardware. If the OS crashes, the ICA sessions still don't break. You should try it before you call it a joke.

No, you're wrong.  Marathon is a software based solution that protects against hardware failures.   If you have two VMs that are mirrored and one gets infected with a virus,  so does it's mirrored counterpart.  If an application executes a bad command on one machine and crashes the OS,  the mirrored machine will execute the same bad command and crash the OS. 


Says "Guest" to "Guest"


This is true. But if that's the reason the other poster called the fault tolerance that Marathon provides a joke, that's like calling air bags and anti-lock brakes a joke because they can't stop a drunk from getting behind the wheel. The fact is when Marathon is used, a level a fault tolerance exists in the environment that doesn't exist without it, just like a car with air bags and antilock brakes has a level of safety that doesn't exist without them.

What is a joke is customers who have been told by VMware that their ICA sessions are fault tolerant when using VMware's VMotion. While it's true that the ICA sessions won't break when the virtualized Presentation Server they are connected to is moved from one peice of hardware to another, if the Presentation Server's OS has crashed or the hardware its running on has crashed, VMotion provides nothing to keep those existing ICA sessions running. Any OS crash or hardware crash even with VMotion means a new Presentation Server OS needs to be booted and user will need to establish new ICA sessions. I don't know how many customers I've encountered who have been led to believe that VMotion makes their ICA sessions fault tolerant.

But you can't blame VMware for trying to insinuate that they do, because the quest to make ICA sessions fault tolerant has been around since the WinFrame days. And Marathon is the first technology to actually provide fault tolerance for ICA sessions. But you're right, it's not going stop bad anti-virus protection or bad application developers from crashing the OS any more than automobile safety engineers can stop a drunk from crashing a car.


Marathon today, protects against underlying system failure, hardware for physical machines, and in the upcoming integration with XenServer, underlying physical, and PV driver failure.

XenMotion/Vmotion provide high availability only.

Marathon on top of that provides fault tolerance.

As for migrating user sessions, it doesn't get more dirty than "Zmotioning" the whole server (which oh by the way) the users come with it.  =)

With Marathon, you could literally type "poweroff" on one of the XenServer's consoles, unplug the workload, move it to another rack, maybe go to lunch (because you were hungry), then maybe had another meeting, came back and "resync'd" the server after powering it back on.

Maintenance at that point is "any-ness".  Why can't you use Fault Tolerance to your benefit, instead of approaching it as a failure protection-only? You've wasted alot of money waiting for something bad to happen.