Where does Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V fit in with SCVMM?

Last month, as VMware prepared for their European conference, news of Citrix setting XenServer free and providing new management tools for Hyper-V was leaked. After the recent announcement of a beta for Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 R2, I decided to read up on the official announcement from Citrix to see how the Microsoft and Citrix management products fit in with one another.

First of all, to summarise the Citrix announcements last month, as well as announcing that the XenServer hypervisor will be free of charge, Citrix announced a 20-year collaboration project with Microsoft (Project Encore) as part of which they will release new management tools (Citrix Essentials – available for XenServer and for Hyper-V) and Microsoft will support XenServer in a future version of SCVMM.

The official coverage of the Citrix Essentials announcement also includes videos featuring Simon Crosby, CIO of the Virtualisation Management Division at Citrix and Mike Neil, the General Manager for Virtualisation at Microsoft. In one video, Crosby says that:

“You’ve known us as the guys who made the hypervisor free – that’s what Xen stood for and we’ve been partners with Microsoft with Hyper-V to make exactly the same true in the Windows world.

This is not about free hypervisors anymore – this is about free enterprise virtualised infrastructure, containing multiple servers, shared storage, live relocation – everything that you need to build, in production, enterprise class virtualised infrastructure is now free. It’s a game changer for the virtualisation industry because it completely changes the cost of adopting virtualisation.”

After saying how Citrix was setting everything free, Crosby contradicts himself by saying that it’s basically the hypervisor that’s free but that there’s a management suite (Citrix Essentials) that’s chargeable… (so the “essential” part is not free then!)

Even so, it’s a significantly lower price point than the last time I looked at VMware Virtual Infrastructure (which is the real point Citrix are trying to make), and Citrix Essentials will provide extra functionality, some of which would require the purchase of additional products from VMware:

  • Automated lab management – to streamline the process of building, testing, sharing and delivering throughout the application lifecycle, from development labs into the production environment.
  • Advanced storage integration – to expose advanced data and storage management features directly to a virtualized environment.
  • Dynamic provisioning services – for the on-demand deployment of workloads to any combination of virtual machines or physical servers from a single image.
  • Workflow orchestration – for the simplified scripting to automation of key management processes.
  • High availability – for the automatic restart and intelligent placement of virtual machines in case of failure of guest systems or physical servers.

But some of this functionality is also available in SCVMM, so how does Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V fit with the Microsoft Virtualization portfolio? That’s explained in another video, where Crosby highlights that:

“Citrix Essentials is a management pack of solutions that complement System Center VMM, adding value in areas relating to storage automation, lab automation and VM lifecycle automation that are entirely complimentary to the use cases that are part of System Center VMM today”

He continues to explain that, in terms of multivendor platform management, SCVMM is forging ahead and Citrix’s objective is to complement the Microsoft products by filling in the key areas of automation that are not part of the virtualisation management role (e.g. storage, lab and stage management), to complement Hyper-V and to co-exist with SCVMM.

Mike Neil explained that the Microsoft Virtualization platform is designed to be layered with the base hypervisor functionality provided in Windows Server and the System Center products layered on top to manage the virtual and physical machines, their operating systems and applications. This infrastructure is designed to be extended by partners and Citrix has taken advantage by producing Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V.

It helps that XenServer and Hyper-V are compatible at the hypervisor layer (indeed, Citrix developed the Linux integration components for Hyper-V). Citrix Essentials is intended to ensure that, whether there’s a Citrix or a Microsoft hypervisor in use, the same automation and capabilities are available for all workloads (and SCVMM can manage VMware ESX and ESXi hosts too, via Virtual Center).

Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V will go on sale in April 2009, priced at around $1500 per server.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager is available today from Microsoft, with attractive licensing arrangements (the Server Management Suite Enterprise) for customers deploying multiple System Center products.

Hyper-V is available as a role for 64-bit editions of Windows Server 2008 and as a standalone product offered free of charge (Hyper-V Server 2008).

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