Citrix Partners with NetApp for Virtual Storage

The new management feature will be part of Version 4.1 of Citrix XenServer.

Citrix Systems is looking to improve the virtual storage capabilities of XenServer by teaming up with NetApp to add new management features to the latest version of the virtualization software.

Version 4.1 of Citrix XenServer, which is being released March 31, will include a new feature dubbed Citrix XenServer Adapter for NetApp Data OnTap, which will allow users to manage storage configuration and provisioning from a single management console.

This feature, jointly developed by Citrix and NetApp, will allow the management console to directly interface with the storage array. In this case, NetApp engineers provided an open API-OnTap-that the XenServer management console can evoke when there's a need to clone a virtual machine or take a snapshot of a VM, said Simon Crosby, chief technology officer of virtualization and management for Citrix.

The new platform is not a Web-based application. The console issues an instruction directly to the storage array through the API, which then creates a VM snapshot within the hardware. This way allows for better performance within the virtual environments, Crosby said.

"It's a much more efficient architecture, and it also means that customers do not have to change their storage practices and repurchase all of their storage infrastructure and backup and HA/DR [high availability/disaster recovery] procedures specifically because they are virtualizing," Crosby said.

The feature will allow users more flexibility when it comes to creating and deploying virtual environments. For example, the feature will help improve the thin provisioning of VDIs (virtual disk images) as well as improve the performance of snapshots and clones of VDIs.

Citrix is not the only x86 virtualization vendor beginning to develop new features that help its products and technology better integrate with storage. NetApp announced early in March a feature called SnapManager for Virtual Infrastructure, which allows VMware command lines to automate virtual machine and storage management processes.

"Virtualization touches everything in the sense that we touch systems management, hardware, software and the other parts of the software stack," Crosby said. "Virtualization is going to change a lot this year."

One of the biggest changes, Crosby said, is products from companies such as Citrix and VMware are also getting pushed more and more into the hardware itself, which will help distinguish their offerings from Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization product, which will be an option within Server 2008.