So you just heard that XenServer is now fully Open Source. In this blog article I’ll attempt to answer your next two questions:

So what does that actually mean then?

Well, the answer is threefold:

1. It means that we are releasing the source code for all XenServer components under Open Source licenses. Although some  XenServer components have been Open Source for many years already (including, for example, the Xen Hypervisor, which has always been Open Source) there were, until now, a number of important XenServer components that remained proprietary – including our ParaVirtualized Windows Drivers and the XenCenter Management Console.

2. It means that we are moving towards a more open development model. Even for many of the components of XenServer that have been Open Source for some time already, we have not ‘developed in the open’ – i.e. instead of having all code commits visible externally as we make them, we chose to meet our Open Source obligations by releasing a snapshot of our source code with each binary release. This is now changing – as I write this blog post our active XenServer development repositories are being moved onto GitHub, ensuring that every source commit we (or anyone else) makes to XenServer will be immediately visible. And source code is just the beginning; over time we will be moving more of our development processes into the open.

3. It means that we are going to start making XenServer components ‘play well’ within the wider Linux ecosystem. While we will continue to ship a warranted and supported Citrix XenServer product, we will also enable customers to ‘roll their own XenServer-like system’ by installing a base distro (such as Ubuntu or CentOS) and then layering Xen and XenServer packages on top of this. In addition, we will also be working to make XenServer packages fit in with standard Open Source workflows – e.g. alongside popular Configuration Management tools like Chef and Puppet.

Who cares?

The answer to this question depends on who you are and how you’re using XenServer.

If you’re looking to run XenServer in a cloud deployment then you’re probably already pretty excited by Point 3 above – making XenServer fit in with Open Source distros and workflows will make the platform even more flexible and more “automatable” than it already is, allowing you greater control over how you scale out your infrastructure and layer value-add services on top of it.

But what if you’re using XenServer in a different setting – e.g. in a Desktop Virtualization deployment, within a NetScaler SDX appliance or just in a good old fashioned Server Virtualization context? Well, Open Source is still relevant to you, because Points 1 and 2 (above) will ultimately result in XenServer becoming a better product. Specifically:

By making it easier to collaborate with our development partners, we will be able to bring new functionality to market even faster. For example, we’re currently working with nVidia to bring the benefits of nVidia Grid Virtual GPU technology into XenServer. Moving to a full Open Source development model for XenServer will enable us to accelerate cross-company co-development projects like this.

By making it easier to build deep integrations with our ecosystem partners we will be able to increase the breadth and depth of third party offerings around XenServer. We already have a strong set of third party offerings in areas such as backup, monitoring and endpoint protection. Moving to a full Open Source development model will make it easier for ecosystem partners to integrate with the XenServer platform, accelerating and expanding on these types of solutions.

Final Thoughts

Maybe Open Sourcing XenServer matters to you directly because you’re looking forward to the flexibility that comes from using XenServer packages in regular Linux distros. Maybe it matters to you indirectly because it enables new, innovative functionality to be built into the platform more quickly. But either way, I am sure that the move to a full Open Source model, and the resulting increase in investment from Citrix, will make XenServer a better platform for your virtualization needs.

So check out the xenserver.org website and browse the Open Source XenServer community resources for yourself. And then, click here to download XenServer for free and deploy it in your environment.

If you’d like to hear more about moving to a full Open Source model and what it means for XenServer then check out this video.