Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) appliances that unify the management of compute and storage are by far and away the hottest segment of the data center market. The challenge that Citrix partners have often faced is they lacked a turnkey appliance based on the open source Xen hypervisor to effectively compete against rival HCI appliances based on VMware, Nutanix or Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines.
At the Citrix Summit 2018 conference, this week Flexxible IT moved to fill that gap with the launch of an HCI appliance based on Citrix XenServer, the distribution of the Xen hypervisor curated by Citrix.
Available via channel partners, Flexxible IT CEO Sebastian Prat says Flexxible|SmartWorkspaces for Citrix Cloud can either be deployed in an on-premises IT environment or employed in a hosting facility to drive a managed service.
Regardless of how its deployed, Prat says management of the HCI appliances is provided centrally via a Flexxible|Hawk, a management framework hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud.
“The management piece is going to be critical for partners,” says Prat.
Prat says the company, headquartered in London, is just now starting to build out its channel in North America. Initially, Flexxible IT plans to manage that channel themselves before eventually embracing a two-tier model involving distribution partners, says Prat.
Competition among providers of HCI appliances is already fierce. Citrix, however, has all been absent from this segment of the market because it depends on OEMs to bundle Citrix XenServer with hardware. Most of the larger OEMs thus far have concentrated their HCI sales and marketing efforts on either VMware or Nutanix software. Prat notes that as an open source alternative Citrix XenServer provides solution providers with additional room for profit margins because there are no commercial licensing fees.
Naturally, it remains to be seen just how well Flexxible IT can compete against larger rivals such as Dell EMC and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE). But as history has shown time and again there’s always room for open source alternatives in the channel.