Virtualization Blog

Discussions and observations on virtualization.

XenServer 7.3: Changes to the Free Edition

Today we're pleased to announce the release of XenServer 7.3, which includes a raft of new features and improvements. Whilst you can read all about exactly what's in that release over on the release announcement blog, I wanted to provide clarity on the changes we're making to the Free Edition of XenServer as part of the release.

As many of you will be aware, XenServer is available in three editions: Free, Standard, and Enterprise. All of them are installed from the same ISO, and all are equally open source. The Standard edition is almost identical to the Free edition in terms of feature set, but includes commercial support and an extended period of hotfix availability from Citrix, whilst the Enterprise edition enables a variety of additional features.

Having carefully considered what features are in each edition, we've taken the decision to move some features out of the Free edition, and into Standard.

The full list of features being moved is:

  • Dynamic Memory Control
  • Xen Storage Motion
  • Active Directory Integration
  • Role Based Access Control
  • High Availability
  • GPU Pass-Through
  • Site Recovery Manager (Disaster Recovery)
  • XenCenter Rolling Pool Upgrade Wizard
  • Maximum Pool Size Restricted To 3 Hosts (existing larger pools will continue to work, but no new host joins will be permitted)

This will therefore make the Standard edition substantially different to the Free edition. No features are moving from Free to Enterprise. You can find all of the details in the full XenServer 7.3 feature matrix.

I suspect many readers will be asking "why?". We have thousands of customers who trust XenServer to host their workloads, and we need to make sure we can invest in the product for them. Of the many thousands of customers using the Free edition, we hope that those using it for large deployments (and likely to be using the features above) will consider purchasing a subscription to enable access not just to the features above, but also the patch/hotfix stream for each release for an extended period (roughly 7 months from release versus 3 months for Free users), access to Long Term Service Releases (up to 10 years of maintenance) and support services from Citrix.

I realise that this news will be difficult for people who make use of the Free edition of XenServer in larger environments. We have looked carefully at how the revised Free edition compares to other free virtualisation platforms on the market, and concluded that even with this change, XenServer's free feature set is still great for small deployments or home labs. Evidently Citrix will continue to add functionality to all three editions in the future: as you can see from 7.3 release notes, there is plenty going on!

As usual, you can get in touch with me via the comments function below, or on Twitter. I'll endeavour to reply as soon as practical!

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Comments 29

Sam McLeod on Thursday, 14 December 2017 02:03

David, you know I hold the upmost respect for you so please don't take this personally.

This is a typical, big enterprise, Microsoft style backstab and absolutely aimed at the heart not just of XenServer but many of the key people and organisations that push for and help drive innovation.

I understand the need to prove profitability to the suits in the business, but this is a very short-sighted move, one that in our eyes, this is clearly the beginning (some mid say the middle) of the end for XenServer.

We're planning on moving our entire organisation to oVirt, which not only performs better but offers significantly more features and is 100% open source without requiring licensing for any special features.

2
David, you know I hold the upmost respect for you so please don't take this personally. This is a typical, big enterprise, Microsoft style backstab and absolutely aimed at the heart not just of XenServer but many of the key people and organisations that push for and help drive innovation. I understand the need to prove profitability to the suits in the business, but this is a very short-sighted move, one that in our eyes, this is clearly the beginning (some mid say the middle) of the end for XenServer. We're planning on moving our entire organisation to oVirt, which not only performs better but offers significantly more features and is 100% open source without requiring licensing for any special features.
David Cottingham on Thursday, 14 December 2017 03:32

Hi Sam,

Firstly, I'll say that I can understand where you're coming from. I recognise that there will be some people affected by this decision who are now faced with a tough choice (including you).

I think it's important to differentiate between the pricing of the product from Citrix, and the source code licensing model. XenServer (all editions) remains open source, with the ability for anyone to head over to Github and peruse the code, contribute patches, and so forth. What's changing is what features Citrix puts into the free edition that it builds, tests, and maintains; all of those are still open source, though.

We're also not ceasing to have a free edition: it has all of the features (IMO!) that small deployments need, and Citrix provides the patch stream completely free to all users until the next release emerges (at which point access to further hotfixes on that earlier release requires a maintenance subscription).

I think what this comes down to is, for larger deployments, whether a customer is happy to use a community-maintained platform such as oVirt, which probably does not have the same level of testing, hardware-certification, or support that a commercial product does. That's not to say oVirt is somehow "bad": it's not. But the level of assurance you get for it as compared to its commercial equivalent from Red Hat (RHEV) is very different. XenServer is much the same: it's open source, but customers benefit from Citrix standing behind the product, testing and maintaining it, and supporting customers if ever they get into difficulties. I'd also point out that oVirt probably doesn't have all of the functionality that XenServer does (e.g. Direct Inspect security APIs, support for Windows Update of in-guest hypervisor drivers, best-in-class GPU features, or Health Check to name a few); whether that is significant of course depends on the customer.

We'll continue to invest in making all editions (including Free) of XenServer gain more and more features and functionality: There's plenty to do! :-).

0
Hi Sam, Firstly, I'll say that I can understand where you're coming from. I recognise that there will be some people affected by this decision who are now faced with a tough choice (including you). I think it's important to differentiate between the pricing of the product from Citrix, and the source code licensing model. XenServer (all editions) remains open source, with the ability for anyone to head over to Github and peruse the code, contribute patches, and so forth. What's changing is what features Citrix puts into the free edition that it builds, tests, and maintains; all of those are still open source, though. We're also [b]not[/b] ceasing to have a free edition: it has all of the features (IMO!) that small deployments need, and Citrix provides the patch stream completely free to all users until the next release emerges (at which point access to further hotfixes on that earlier release requires a maintenance subscription). I think what this comes down to is, for larger deployments, whether a customer is happy to use a community-maintained platform such as oVirt, which probably does not have the same level of testing, hardware-certification, or support that a commercial product does. That's not to say oVirt is somehow "bad": it's not. But the level of assurance you get for it as compared to its commercial equivalent from Red Hat (RHEV) is very different. XenServer is much the same: it's open source, but customers benefit from Citrix standing behind the product, testing and maintaining it, and supporting customers if ever they get into difficulties. I'd also point out that oVirt probably doesn't have all of the functionality that XenServer does (e.g. Direct Inspect security APIs, support for Windows Update of in-guest hypervisor drivers, best-in-class GPU features, or Health Check to name a few); whether that is significant of course depends on the customer. We'll continue to invest in making all editions (including Free) of XenServer gain more and more features and functionality: There's plenty to do! :-).
Sam McLeod on Thursday, 14 December 2017 05:05

What happens if a host dies in one of your existing pools and you need to replace it? Unless your pool is tiny (3 or less hosts) - you're screwed.

What happens if you have a dev/test pool that could even comprise of a bunch of desktops running to test various updates, VMs etc... - you can't have more than 3 in a pool - and that might then be the big difference between you prod and non-prod environments.

Re: Support - XenServer (free) community support has always been terrible IMO with just a few exceptions being the wonderful Tobias, yourself and Jesse, so I could argue that with XenServer you barely even get community support.

Redhat are incredibly generous and helpful when it comes to supporting unlicensed products that use the same, upstream or downstream software as their 'Enterprise' distro, for example - they actually take quite a bit from oVirt for their RHEV offering, likewise they contribute back to it just as they do Gluster - now if I go and log a bug on the Redhat bugzilla tracker for Gluster, even if I'm using CentOS or a trial version of RHEL they pick it up almost immediately, are helpful and just care about getting the bug fixed ASAP for everyone regardless of what their financial situation is.

What about the small or non-profit/charitable organisations like us that while we might have 10 hosts per pool, they're nothing too fancy, I bet many others actually run it on commodity hardware because they can't afford the cost or pain that comes with licensing.

If the XenServer project had up until now the option to donate to the open and unlicensed development of the product - I have no doubt I / we would have donated what we could afford, as we have done with other software.

Consider this:

If you have groups of people using your software bundle at no cost, but that also don't cost you anything as they don't get support etc... your risk is mostly that they might just not buy the paid offering, you have two options:


1) Kneecap the free version so that people can have a play and then write a business case to get the suits to spend money for licensing.

The problem with this is obvious, people are going to think poorly of your product, they'll see the hostility towards modern open ecosystems that have given rise to rapid software development and innovation, they know the frustrations of even dealing with licensing let alone paying for it and you're screwing over all the loyal existing users that may (or may not) contribute to the community.

You lose community propulsion: Bug reports, diverse operating environment information, analytical data and those that support others (even paying customers) within that community.

Here you're only left with the big, old slow moving enterprises paying you $ due to vendor lock-in or lack of resourcing to migrate to an alternative.

The product - like others of this model, will fade out of existence over time.


2) Accept that (a bit like with music), they'll likely never pay for it and they'll either switch to another product or won't even consider your product.

Make it clear you don't offer support of any kind unless you pay for it, but if you do pay for it - you get damn excellent support.

Consider making it freely (and easily) available without support for non-commercial use and registered charities, non-profits and perhaps some educational institutions.

You can still leave out features that have been developed by Citrix and aren't contributed to by the community that would only ever be used by enterprise / large organisations, e.g. SASL/AD authentication, RBAC, Certified hardware compatibility, Access to long term / extended support releases, reporting tools designed to provide information to managers and auditors, workload analyser, DR/HA functionality, built in security auditing and BPA.

But you don't mess with the core, you don't stop people from being able to create clusters of a certain size if you're not even willing to support a single node, you don't prevent them through licensing from doing things that Linux, Xen or many competing products provide natively and especially not while neglecting to address serious, long time problems such as still using the essentially maintainable ext3 filesystem, lacking TRIM/DISCARD support, relying on iSCSI SNs for LUN identification, allowing installation of old / outdated patches over the top of newer ones, not just not improving / hardening SELinux but actively disabling, accepting the terrible TAPDISK/BLKBACK performance.

I could go on, but I am of course, flogging a dying horse.

2
What happens if a host dies in one of your existing pools and you need to replace it? Unless your pool is tiny (3 or less hosts) - you're screwed. What happens if you have a dev/test pool that could even comprise of a bunch of desktops running to test various updates, VMs etc... - you can't have more than 3 in a pool - and that might then be the big difference between you prod and non-prod environments. Re: Support - XenServer (free) community support has always been terrible IMO with just a few exceptions being the wonderful Tobias, yourself and Jesse, so I could argue that with XenServer you barely even get community support. Redhat are incredibly generous and helpful when it comes to supporting unlicensed products that use the same, upstream or downstream software as their 'Enterprise' distro, for example - they actually take quite a bit from oVirt for their RHEV offering, likewise they contribute back to it just as they do Gluster - now if I go and log a bug on the Redhat bugzilla tracker for Gluster, even if I'm using CentOS or a trial version of RHEL they pick it up almost immediately, are helpful and just care about getting the bug fixed ASAP for everyone regardless of what their financial situation is. What about the small or non-profit/charitable organisations like us that while we might have 10 hosts per pool, they're nothing too fancy, I bet many others actually run it on commodity hardware because they can't afford the cost or pain that comes with licensing. If the XenServer project had up until now the option to donate to the open and unlicensed development of the product - I have no doubt I / we would have donated what we could afford, as we have done with other software. Consider this: If you have groups of people using your software bundle at no cost, but that also don't cost you anything as they don't get support etc... your risk is mostly that they might just not buy the paid offering, you have two options: [b]1) Kneecap the free version so that people can have a play and then write a business case to get the suits to spend money for licensing.[/b] The problem with this is obvious, people are going to think poorly of your product, they'll see the hostility towards modern open ecosystems that have given rise to rapid software development and innovation, they know the frustrations of even dealing with licensing let alone paying for it and you're screwing over all the loyal existing users that may (or may not) contribute to the community. You lose community propulsion: Bug reports, diverse operating environment information, analytical data and those that support others (even paying customers) within that community. Here you're only left with the big, old slow moving enterprises paying you $ due to vendor lock-in or lack of resourcing to migrate to an alternative. [i]The product - like others of this model, will fade out of existence over time.[/i] [b]2) Accept that (a bit like with music), they'll likely never pay for it and they'll either switch to another product or won't even consider your product.[/b] Make it clear you don't offer support of any kind unless you pay for it, [i]but if you do pay for it - you get damn excellent support[/i]. Consider making it freely (and easily) available without support for non-commercial use and registered charities, non-profits and perhaps some educational institutions. You can still leave out features that have been developed by Citrix and aren't contributed to by the community that would only ever be used by enterprise / large organisations, e.g. SASL/AD authentication, RBAC, Certified hardware compatibility, Access to long term / extended support releases, reporting tools designed to provide information to managers and auditors, workload analyser, DR/HA functionality, built in security auditing and BPA. But you don't mess with the core, you don't stop people from being able to create clusters of a certain size if you're not even willing to support a single node, you don't prevent them through licensing from doing things that Linux, Xen or many competing products provide natively and especially not while neglecting to address serious, long time problems such as still using the essentially maintainable ext3 filesystem, lacking TRIM/DISCARD support, relying on iSCSI SNs for LUN identification, allowing installation of old / outdated patches over the top of newer ones, not just not improving / hardening SELinux but actively disabling, accepting the terrible TAPDISK/BLKBACK performance. I could go on, but I am of course, flogging a dying horse.
David Cottingham on Friday, 15 December 2017 23:54

Replying bit by bit...

You're correct on the pool leave/join point: if you have an existing >3 host pool, if you eject a host for any reason, you will not be able to make it re-join the pool if that would breach the 3 host limit. It's a compromise between forcibly breaking people's pools when they upgrade to 7.3 (which I think would be a nightmare for everyone), and somehow enforcing the restriction later.

Regarding dev/test pools:

* Evidently there's no reason why one could not have multiple pools of up to 3 hosts each. Yes, that evidently has some disadvantages compared to running one large pool, but it's certainly not impossible.
* If anyone is running desktops on top, and is running XenDesktop/XenApp, entitlement to all features of XenServer is included in their XenDesktop/XenApp license anyway, hence they don't have an issue. But evidently one can have many other types of desktop scenario too, just pointing this out ;)
* I would assert (interested to hear other views on this) that a test pool is unlikely to be used with many of the features that are no longer in Free, assuming it's to test updates etc.. Hence apart from the pool size (which is normally far smaller for test than prod. anyway) I'm not sure the other feature restrictions are so significant.

Community support: I agree that Tobias, Jesse, Alan Lantz and several others are top forum posters for a reason, but the number of forum posts apart from them does suggest a reasonable number of people helping each other out. And keep in mind that our engineers (support and development) do post there too. In terms of bug reporting on bugs.xenserver.org, I think we've done a reasonable job of getting fixes out to problems reported through there (regardless of what edition a user is running); not talking about feature requests here, but real product bugs, as you mentioned for Gluster etc.. Evidently I'm biased here, but I can tell you that we do definitely pay attention to product bugs that surface that way.

From reading through the above, it sounds like the main complaint is about the pool size restriction, rather than the features that have been moved from Free to Standard. I go back to my point that if that's the only issue, running multiple pools is evidently one way to solve it, but the bigger the deployment, the more of a management issue that becomes. Bigger deployments, though, as you pointed out, will want enterprise features such as AD integration etc., for which Standard or Enterprise edition becomes necessary.

In conclusion, I completely understand that moving features out of the Free edition is difficult news to hear for many. But having looked at what else is on offer from other vendors, I believe that XenServer's Free edition is still a good choice, given the feature set and free patch stream it offers.

0
Replying bit by bit... You're correct on the pool leave/join point: if you have an existing >3 host pool, if you eject a host for any reason, you will not be able to make it re-join the pool if that would breach the 3 host limit. It's a compromise between forcibly breaking people's pools when they upgrade to 7.3 (which I think would be a nightmare for everyone), and somehow enforcing the restriction later. Regarding dev/test pools: * Evidently there's no reason why one could not have multiple pools of up to 3 hosts each. Yes, that evidently has some disadvantages compared to running one large pool, but it's certainly not impossible. * If anyone is running desktops on top, and is running XenDesktop/XenApp, entitlement to all features of XenServer is included in their XenDesktop/XenApp license anyway, hence they don't have an issue. But evidently one can have many other types of desktop scenario too, just pointing this out ;) * I would assert (interested to hear other views on this) that a test pool is unlikely to be used with many of the features that are no longer in Free, assuming it's to test updates etc.. Hence apart from the pool size (which is normally far smaller for test than prod. anyway) I'm not sure the other feature restrictions are so significant. Community support: I agree that Tobias, Jesse, Alan Lantz and several others are top forum posters for a reason, but the number of forum posts apart from them does suggest a reasonable number of people helping each other out. And keep in mind that our engineers (support and development) do post there too. In terms of bug reporting on bugs.xenserver.org, I think we've done a reasonable job of getting fixes out to problems reported through there (regardless of what edition a user is running); not talking about feature requests here, but real product bugs, as you mentioned for Gluster etc.. Evidently I'm biased here, but I can tell you that we do definitely pay attention to product bugs that surface that way. From reading through the above, it sounds like the main complaint is about the pool size restriction, rather than the features that have been moved from Free to Standard. I go back to my point that if that's the only issue, running multiple pools is evidently one way to solve it, but the bigger the deployment, the more of a management issue that becomes. Bigger deployments, though, as you pointed out, will want enterprise features such as AD integration etc., for which Standard or Enterprise edition becomes necessary. In conclusion, I completely understand that moving features out of the Free edition is difficult news to hear for many. But having looked at what else is on offer from other vendors, I believe that XenServer's Free edition is still a good choice, given the feature set and free patch stream it offers.
Willem Boterenbrood on Sunday, 17 December 2017 12:39

Hello David,

I just read the news on the 7.3 release and the features removed from the free edition. As a user of the free edition I am very disappointed and like Sam I strongly believe this change will hurt XenServer in the long run and therefore is not a very smart move.

With the change you might indeed get some free edition users to pay which is good. But I am sure that number will be much lower than the number of users that will leave XenServer behind and opt for another free HyperVisor. The users that leave will never go to a paid model even if their business grows. Less users means less promotion of the product, less users to test compatibility, provide support on the forums, less purchasing of products that are compatible with XenServer and therefore a decrease in the overall eco-system around XenServer.

Another problem is that choosing to run XenServer free instead of another free HyperVisor for new users becomes less likely. Obviously this is partially because the feature set of the free version is becoming less and less appealing and maybe even more important is the message that Citrix doesn't care about free edition users and therefore they cannot be sure if the product will fit their needs in the next release because Citrix may decide to remove another feature, who knows.

This last point is also important for current free edition users. We might not pay for the product but we probably have promoted it, helped people on the forums, invested money in the eco-system around XenServer, etc. And by these changes we also get the message that Citrix doesn't care about us, its pay of f*ck off if you belong to the category of users that did use the scrapped features.

What I find the most surprising is that the solution to this problem is so simple:
A) Never remove features from a specific version to a higher tiered version
B) Add new features to the version you want to sell

When you adhere to these simple rules no one has to feel bad as you never get less than what you started with and by adding new features to the payed version more people will move to the payed version (if those features are good)
I was already disappointed when I found out that I was unable to install the latest cumulative update on the free edition ( a change in XenServer 7.1) But I can understand that and there is a way around this, just go get XenServer 7.2 7.3 etc to stay safe. Now with the removal of features from the 7.3 free edition this is not good option anymore.

I understand that the current free offering can still be interesting and has a lot of use cases, but so do the much more used free offerings of VMware, HyperV and many KVM based products. So XenServers free offering should be as good as possible to win over people from the other products. XenServer has in some aspects been really lagging behind like Thin provisioning, changed block tracking, support for the new Intel Xeon CPU masking, XenServer was one of the latest top support these (we are still waiting for thin provisioning on block storage) , and that needs to be offset with some other awesomeness that the other products don't have.

As a last point think about those free edition users, Why do you need them? In short: Marketing, Eco-systems, Community Support
Just live with the fact that many will never pay for the product, any free XenServer customer doesn't pay for VMware, just enjoy that fact. Also look at many very successful companies that use the free users to their advantage while these even cost them money, directly, there are so many like DropBox, Wargaming, Spotify. Free users are important, you either find a way to get those to strengthen your business or you fight them as long as you can and in the end hurt your business in the long run.

So please consider changing these bad decisions before loosing users.
Always consider these 2 golden rules:
1) Never ever give any type of customers the finger and keep the features that they had in the tier they had. Product stability is important and so don't change the rules during the game.
2) If you think you deserve more money, prove it! Add the features customers are asking for to the tiers you want to sell, if the proposition is good it will work.

2
Hello David, I just read the news on the 7.3 release and the features removed from the free edition. As a user of the free edition I am very disappointed and like Sam I strongly believe this change will hurt XenServer in the long run and therefore is not a very smart move. With the change you might indeed get some free edition users to pay which is good. But I am sure that number will be much lower than the number of users that will leave XenServer behind and opt for another free HyperVisor. The users that leave will never go to a paid model even if their business grows. Less users means less promotion of the product, less users to test compatibility, provide support on the forums, less purchasing of products that are compatible with XenServer and therefore a decrease in the overall eco-system around XenServer. Another problem is that choosing to run XenServer free instead of another free HyperVisor for new users becomes less likely. Obviously this is partially because the feature set of the free version is becoming less and less appealing and maybe even more important is the message that Citrix doesn't care about free edition users and therefore they cannot be sure if the product will fit their needs in the next release because Citrix may decide to remove another feature, who knows. This last point is also important for current free edition users. We might not pay for the product but we probably have promoted it, helped people on the forums, invested money in the eco-system around XenServer, etc. And by these changes we also get the message that Citrix doesn't care about us, its pay of f*ck off if you belong to the category of users that did use the scrapped features. What I find the most surprising is that the solution to this problem is so simple: A) Never remove features from a specific version to a higher tiered version B) Add new features to the version you want to sell When you adhere to these simple rules no one has to feel bad as you never get less than what you started with and by adding new features to the payed version more people will move to the payed version (if those features are good) I was already disappointed when I found out that I was unable to install the latest cumulative update on the free edition ( a change in XenServer 7.1) But I can understand that and there is a way around this, just go get XenServer 7.2 7.3 etc to stay safe. Now with the removal of features from the 7.3 free edition this is not good option anymore. I understand that the current free offering can still be interesting and has a lot of use cases, but so do the much more used free offerings of VMware, HyperV and many KVM based products. So XenServers free offering should be as good as possible to win over people from the other products. XenServer has in some aspects been really lagging behind like Thin provisioning, changed block tracking, support for the new Intel Xeon CPU masking, XenServer was one of the latest top support these (we are still waiting for thin provisioning on block storage) , and that needs to be offset with some other awesomeness that the other products don't have. As a last point think about those free edition users, Why do you need them? In short: Marketing, Eco-systems, Community Support Just live with the fact that many will never pay for the product, any free XenServer customer doesn't pay for VMware, just enjoy that fact. Also look at many very successful companies that use the free users to their advantage while these even cost them money, directly, there are so many like DropBox, Wargaming, Spotify. Free users are important, you either find a way to get those to strengthen your business or you fight them as long as you can and in the end hurt your business in the long run. So please consider changing these bad decisions before loosing users. Always consider these 2 golden rules: 1) Never ever give any type of customers the finger and keep the features that they had in the tier they had. Product stability is important and so don't change the rules during the game. 2) If you think you deserve more money, prove it! Add the features customers are asking for to the tiers you want to sell, if the proposition is good it will work.
David Cottingham on Monday, 18 December 2017 13:15

Hi Willem,

Thanks for your comments: I think I would summarise them by saying that "removing features that are free is very painful for end users, and might have a negative impact on the product in the longer-term". And that's a fair opinion to have.

In terms of whether people can rely on no more disappearing from the Free edition, I want to make clear that there are no plans to remove anything further.

In terms of whether the (changed) Free edition of XenServer is competitive with other free products, we've looked at this and still believe that XenServer is competitive. As one example (admittedly the most extreme), free ESXi does not allow any kind of multi-server management, whilst vSphere Essentials is limited to three hosts (~$900 for 3 years, no support), with no live migration (which is free in XenServer).

In conclusion, as I responded to Sam above, I understand that this decision is not one free users are happy about. I would hope that most of the people using XenServer at small scale will be unaffected by this decision (a reason why we elected to make the patch stream on the latest release remains freely available was to ensure such users would continue to have the latest fixes).

Best wishes,

David.

0
Hi Willem, Thanks for your comments: I think I would summarise them by saying that "removing features that are free is very painful for end users, and might have a negative impact on the product in the longer-term". And that's a fair opinion to have. In terms of whether people can rely on no more disappearing from the Free edition, I want to make clear that there are no plans to remove anything further. In terms of whether the (changed) Free edition of XenServer is competitive with other free products, we've looked at this and still believe that XenServer is competitive. As one example (admittedly the most extreme), free ESXi does not allow any kind of multi-server management, whilst vSphere Essentials is limited to three hosts (~$900 for 3 years, no support), with no live migration (which is free in XenServer). In conclusion, as I responded to Sam above, I understand that this decision is not one free users are happy about. I would hope that most of the people using XenServer at small scale will be unaffected by this decision (a reason why we elected to make the patch stream on the latest release remains freely available was to ensure such users would continue to have the latest fixes). Best wishes, David.
Willem Boterenbrood on Tuesday, 19 December 2017 15:24

Hi David,

Thanks for your reply,
I agree with your summary, tough I am sad your answer doesn't show any willingness to re-evaluate the chosen direction.

It is good to hear that no more features are being removed, but lets be honest. The list of removed features is too long already (and missing High-Availability in your post) any further removal and you can just pull the plug on the free version entirely. The problem is that you release a new version, and just announce all removed features without any warning in advance or any poll on the used features for current free version users. By doing this your mention of no further planned removal of features is worth exactly zero, as Citrix could change this anytime, which you just proved with the long list of removed features with the 7.3 release and the previous limitation on patches for the free versions since 7.1

I also agree that even with the current limitations the free version of XenServer is not useless. However I would definitely look at Hyper-V as the main threat instead of VMware. VMware is a lot more expensive and the free version is very limited, however VMware has much broader support for hardware, operating systems and 3rd party software. VMware has been a leader in this segment for many years and they still are, if it was free I wouldn't be running any XenServer or Hyper-V anywhere. For the company I work for and our customers there is no chance any XenServer is going to be replaced by VMware. I am talking small business here. They don't have much money to buy VMware, but they all do have Windows licenses as almost all small business CRM and administration software is running Windows. So that means that they can just run Hyper-V for free. And while Hyper-V lacked many more high-end features in the past its one of the fastest growing hypervisors both in professional features and in installation base. With the release of 2016 I see very little reasons to prefer XenServer anymore except that ReFSv2 is slow and has some problems when using large volumes with the default cluster size and heavy IO, but then XenServer is not very strong in the storage department either.

So lets look at the removed features from the free version since 7.1 and give you my opinion on these from a technical perspective. (From the perspective of trust I do not want to see any removed features)

1) Product patches for 3 months (or longer if there is no newer release)
You don't always know if the new version will work on your hardware, with your backup software etc. so this is annoying. If you skimp on this anymore the free version becomes useless so don't ever think about dropping the limited supported still left! This one is very difficult as it becomes a risk to run the free version for production.

2) High-Availability
I was using this but I can understand that this belongs in a payed tier, sad to see it go but OK.

3) Dynamic Memory Control
I can understand that this belongs in a payed tier

4) Xen Storage Motion
I was using this but I can understand that this belongs in a payed tier, however I would still keep it as storage is not the strongest area of XenServer and this was able to compensate for that.

5) Active Directory Integration
Not using it but it could be handy, Ok for us to go though.

6) Role Based Access Control
I can understand that this belongs in a payed tier

7) GPU Pass-Through
Not very useful without XenApp or XenDesktop so its ok to remove I guess

8) Site Recovery Manager (Disaster Recovery)
I can understand that this belongs in a payed tier

9) XenCenter Rolling Pool Upgrade Wizard
What, are you kidding me? This is like a stab in the back, first you require the free users to upgrade more often and now you make upgrading more difficult too. this is a very petty move Citrix, bring this back in the free version!

10) Maximum Pool Size Restricted To 3 Hosts (existing larger pools will continue to work, but no new host joins will be permitted)
This is somewhat understandable but very sad. I have one customer who will get into trouble by this. Allowing existing pools to continue to work is better than nothing but useless for production as a dead server cannot be replaced anymore.

1
Hi David, Thanks for your reply, I agree with your summary, tough I am sad your answer doesn't show any willingness to re-evaluate the chosen direction. It is good to hear that no more features are being removed, but lets be honest. The list of removed features is too long already (and missing High-Availability in your post) any further removal and you can just pull the plug on the free version entirely. The problem is that you release a new version, and just announce all removed features without any warning in advance or any poll on the used features for current free version users. By doing this your mention of no further planned removal of features is worth exactly zero, as Citrix could change this anytime, which you just proved with the long list of removed features with the 7.3 release and the previous limitation on patches for the free versions since 7.1 I also agree that even with the current limitations the free version of XenServer is not useless. However I would definitely look at Hyper-V as the main threat instead of VMware. VMware is a lot more expensive and the free version is very limited, however VMware has much broader support for hardware, operating systems and 3rd party software. VMware has been a leader in this segment for many years and they still are, if it was free I wouldn't be running any XenServer or Hyper-V anywhere. For the company I work for and our customers there is no chance any XenServer is going to be replaced by VMware. I am talking small business here. They don't have much money to buy VMware, but they all do have Windows licenses as almost all small business CRM and administration software is running Windows. So that means that they can just run Hyper-V for free. And while Hyper-V lacked many more high-end features in the past its one of the fastest growing hypervisors both in professional features and in installation base. With the release of 2016 I see very little reasons to prefer XenServer anymore except that ReFSv2 is slow and has some problems when using large volumes with the default cluster size and heavy IO, but then XenServer is not very strong in the storage department either. So lets look at the removed features from the free version since 7.1 and give you my opinion on these from a technical perspective. (From the perspective of trust I do not want to see any removed features) 1) Product patches for 3 months (or longer if there is no newer release) You don't always know if the new version will work on your hardware, with your backup software etc. so this is annoying. If you skimp on this anymore the free version becomes useless so don't ever think about dropping the limited supported still left! This one is very difficult as it becomes a risk to run the free version for production. 2) High-Availability I was using this but I can understand that this belongs in a payed tier, sad to see it go but OK. 3) Dynamic Memory Control I can understand that this belongs in a payed tier 4) Xen Storage Motion I was using this but I can understand that this belongs in a payed tier, however I would still keep it as storage is not the strongest area of XenServer and this was able to compensate for that. 5) Active Directory Integration Not using it but it could be handy, Ok for us to go though. 6) Role Based Access Control I can understand that this belongs in a payed tier 7) GPU Pass-Through Not very useful without XenApp or XenDesktop so its ok to remove I guess 8) Site Recovery Manager (Disaster Recovery) I can understand that this belongs in a payed tier 9) XenCenter Rolling Pool Upgrade Wizard What, are you kidding me? This is like a stab in the back, first you require the free users to upgrade more often and now you make upgrading more difficult too. this is a very petty move Citrix, bring this back in the free version! 10) Maximum Pool Size Restricted To 3 Hosts (existing larger pools will continue to work, but no new host joins will be permitted) This is somewhat understandable but very sad. I have one customer who will get into trouble by this. Allowing existing pools to continue to work is better than nothing but useless for production as a dead server cannot be replaced anymore.
David Cottingham on Tuesday, 19 December 2017 16:47

Hi Willem,

In terms of assurances on no further features going away, evidently I can continue to say that there are no plans to remove anything further from Free, and you can continue to point out that you have no grounds to believe me ;-). I think it's worth pointing out, though, that more features will also be added to the Free edition over time, i.e. I don't envisage that standing still. In the past (6.5) we moved hotfix application through XenCenter into Free, for example.

In terms of your analysis of the features that have been removed:
* Need to upgrade frequently: keep in mind that for the majority of quarterly releases, these are available as _updates_ (like 7.2 -> 7.3) rather than _upgrades_. This means that adopting them uses the hotfix mechanism. Moreover, we deliberately make sure that there are no major platform/API/driver changes, which means that the HCL for these releases is identical (7.1, 7.2, and 7.3 all share the same one). Thus, whilst Free users will need to move between these minor releases, compatibility with hardware/ISV products will not be an issue.
* High Availability: thanks for pointing out my error! Apologies: now fixed.
* Rolling Pool Upgrade Wizard: linked to my point above, moving between most Current Releases (CRs) will not be an upgrade, i.e. this wizard will not be needed. Free users retain the ability to us the hotfix installation wizard, which is what is needed to move between most CRs (until we ship a major platform update, which will be infrequent).

On your point about the customer who will be affected by the 3 host pool-size limit, is the issue that you believe the price of XenServer Standard edition is too high for a small business, or is it that they do not regard the hypervisor as something that should cost anything at all (i.e. expect it to be free)?

Thanks,

David.

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Hi Willem, In terms of assurances on no further features going away, evidently I can continue to say that there are no plans to remove anything further from Free, and you can continue to point out that you have no grounds to believe me ;-). I think it's worth pointing out, though, that more features will also be added to the Free edition over time, i.e. I don't envisage that standing still. In the past (6.5) we moved hotfix application through XenCenter into Free, for example. In terms of your analysis of the features that have been removed: * Need to upgrade frequently: keep in mind that for the majority of quarterly releases, these are available as _updates_ (like 7.2 -> 7.3) rather than _upgrades_. This means that adopting them uses the hotfix mechanism. Moreover, we deliberately make sure that there are no major platform/API/driver changes, which means that the HCL for these releases is identical (7.1, 7.2, and 7.3 all share the same one). Thus, whilst Free users will need to move between these minor releases, compatibility with hardware/ISV products will not be an issue. * High Availability: thanks for pointing out my error! Apologies: now fixed. * Rolling Pool Upgrade Wizard: linked to my point above, moving between most Current Releases (CRs) will not be an upgrade, i.e. this wizard will not be needed. Free users retain the ability to us the hotfix installation wizard, which is what is needed to move between most CRs (until we ship a major platform update, which will be infrequent). On your point about the customer who will be affected by the 3 host pool-size limit, is the issue that you believe the price of XenServer Standard edition is too high for a small business, or is it that they do not regard the hypervisor as something that should cost anything at all (i.e. expect it to be free)? Thanks, David.
Willem Boterenbrood on Tuesday, 19 December 2017 17:25

Hi David,

Thank you for the clarifications, this is very helpful and takes away some of the fears I had.

And yes you make a fair point, the free version did get XenCenter hotfix installation since 6.5 I believe.

I agree with you that for a company having more than 3 servers paying for a HyperVisor is understandable. Unfortunately I think they will choose to migrate to Hyper-V which is free for them. But I will offer them to buy XenServer.

The XenServer feature document at https://www.citrix.com/content/dam/citrix/en_us/documents/product-overview/citrix-xenserver-feature-matrix.pdf shows that the free version has support for High-Availability and Intellicache which I don't think is correct.

Also I think Change Block Tracking should be added to the standard version (and free too :) ) as this helps save power and is part of the cheapest vSphere versions and comes for free with Hyper-V

Best regards,
Willem.

1
Hi David, Thank you for the clarifications, this is very helpful and takes away some of the fears I had. And yes you make a fair point, the free version did get XenCenter hotfix installation since 6.5 I believe. I agree with you that for a company having more than 3 servers paying for a HyperVisor is understandable. Unfortunately I think they will choose to migrate to Hyper-V which is free for them. But I will offer them to buy XenServer. The XenServer feature document at https://www.citrix.com/content/dam/citrix/en_us/documents/product-overview/citrix-xenserver-feature-matrix.pdf shows that the free version has support for High-Availability and Intellicache which I don't think is correct. Also I think Change Block Tracking should be added to the standard version (and free too :) ) as this helps save power and is part of the cheapest vSphere versions and comes for free with Hyper-V Best regards, Willem.
David Cottingham on Tuesday, 19 December 2017 18:12

Thanks Willem!

Re feature matrix: yep, the HA entry is wrong there, and is being fixed. The Intellicache entry is correct, though: it is still in Free. What makes you think it's not?

Understood re CBT feature: we'll certainly be looking at "cascading" features into Standard too.

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Thanks Willem! Re feature matrix: yep, the HA entry is wrong there, and is being fixed. The Intellicache entry is correct, though: it is still in Free. What makes you think it's not? Understood re CBT feature: we'll certainly be looking at "cascading" features into Standard too.
Willem Boterenbrood on Tuesday, 19 December 2017 19:06

Oops you are right. Intellicache does not work here because I am using LVM storage and not because its the free version.

1
Oops you are right. Intellicache does not work here because I am using LVM storage and not because its the free version.
Sam McLeod on Thursday, 21 December 2017 02:26

To be fair, you said this when features were removed in the past...

0
To be fair, you said this when features were removed in the past...
David Cottingham on Thursday, 21 December 2017 02:36

Err... When? Don't get me wrong, I could be misremembering, but...

0
Err... When? Don't get me wrong, I could be misremembering, but...
Sam McLeod on Thursday, 21 December 2017 03:40

I could be incorrect but I believe this was when features were removed from I think it was either 6.5 or 7.0, I'll see if I can find it - until otherwise innocent until proven guilty - then it's off to the tower of London for you! ;)

2
I could be incorrect but I believe this was when features were removed from I think it was either 6.5 or 7.0, I'll see if I can find it - until otherwise innocent until proven guilty - then it's off to the tower of London for you! ;)
Sam McLeod on Thursday, 21 December 2017 04:36

Unrelated but funny - my great, great, great(?) grandfather was the last man to be beheaded in the tower of london, a right nasty piece of work he was too, I be he revoked all the features from all the people: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Lovat

1
Unrelated but funny - my great, great, great(?) grandfather was the last man to be beheaded in the tower of london, a right nasty piece of work he was too, I be he revoked all the features from all the people: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Lovat
Vinícius Ferrão on Monday, 18 December 2017 11:27

This is sad.

3
This is sad.
Syed Ahmed on Tuesday, 19 December 2017 18:24

KVM ... Here we come

3
KVM ... Here we come
Sam McLeod on Thursday, 21 December 2017 02:27

Exactly, a clear move forward both in terms of performance, features and flexibility, I recommend oVirt (2.4.0 is out shortly).

1
Exactly, a clear move forward both in terms of performance, features and flexibility, I recommend oVirt (2.4.0 is out shortly).
Vinícius Ferrão on Thursday, 21 December 2017 03:07

I think you're talking about the 4.2.0 release. If yes It hit GA today...

1
I think you're talking about the 4.2.0 release. If yes It hit GA today...
Sam McLeod on Thursday, 21 December 2017 03:31

whoops - yes I was!

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whoops - yes I was!

About XenServer

XenServer is the leading open source virtualization platform, powered by the Xen Project hypervisor and the XAPI toolstack. It is used in the world's largest clouds and enterprises.
 
Technical support for XenServer is available from Citrix.