XenServer vs VMware: Choosing the Best Hypervisor for your Organization

When choosing the best hypervisor for your organization, comparing Citrix XenServer vs VMware is a great place to start. While the main difference between these popular hypervisors is cost, there are many other nuanced distinctions. This blog post compares XenServer vs VMware in an easy-to-follow chart.

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Citrix XenServer

Guest Operating System Support

Most Windows OS. Linux support

Windows. Linux. UNIX.

Open Source



Live VM Snapshots for Backups



Thin Provisioning



Asset Management and Configuration Mapping



Dynamic Resource Allocation and Failover



Bare Metal Hypervisor



Graphics Support

XenServer’s Graphics Support is much more comprehensive than VMware’s. Click here to see Citrix’s comparison chart.

VMware’s Graphics Support is much more limited than XenServer’s. See the full comparison chart here.

Pricing and Licensing

XenServer is open source and free, and is an extremely powerful hypervisor without buying additional features. However, you can purchase a 1-year maintenance license. Citrix offers two editions for maintenance: Standard and Enterprise. More information can be found in Citrix’s licensing FAQ. For pricing, you can visit the Citrix store to get an automatic quote. Backup software for XenServer can be purchased separately, and pricing depends on the solution. Visit our XenServer Backup site to learn more about our Alike solution for XenServer and to sign up for a free trial. Even with backup software and a Citrix maintenance license, XenServer tends to be more cost-effective than VMware for many IT environments.

Unlike XenServer, which is free, VMware requires a proprietary license and is licensed per processor. VMware does offer a free version called ESXi, but it isn’t nearly as powerful or functional as XenServer’s free offering. Visit the VMware store to get pricing for specific virtualization tools. Or compare pricing on their main site. If you need backup software, we currently do not support VMware. Please check back with us or sign up for our newsletter for product updates. Overall, pricing for VMware tends to be more complicated and less cost-effective for smaller businesses. Plus, their free version is far more limited (no option to backup, for instance) to XenServer’s open source hypervisor.

Installation and Configuration

Designed to be installed quickly without the need to configure a complex management infrastructure or create a dedicated storage network. Simply install XenServer on any x86, 64-bit server that has Intel® VT or AMD V™ technology, install Citrix® XenCenter® on any Microsoft® Windows® desktop, and then start virtualizing workloads immediately.

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2. Up to 2GB free disk space to decompress the installation archive. Approximately 1.5GB of these files are deleted after the installation is complete. Note: If you do not have any of these components already installed, you must have 400MB free on the drive that has the %temp% directory. If you have all of the components already installed, 300 MB is required on the drive that has the %temp% directory, and 450MB is required for vSphere Client.

Host Server Management

XenServer is an enterprise-ready, cloud-proven virtualization platform with all the capabilities needed to create and manage a virtual infrastructure using XenCenter® management console; SysAdmins can all manage XenServer in one place.

vSphere’s management kernel is completely custom grown by VMware. It doesn’t use Linux, UNIX, or POSIX. The server management system for VMware uses the BusyBox environment to provide a shell environment for users to work in.

User-Friendly Management

XenServer is typically considered easier to use and manage, and because it is open source, it is constantly improving features, such as IntelliCache™ designed to reduce the overall costs and improve performance of a XenDesktop installation. XenConvert can be used to convert existing physical and virtual machines to XenServer compatible virtual machines.

vSphere’s GUI can be limited for some. It is designed for Linux, making it more difficult for Windows users to install and use.

VM Live Migration

Yes. XenMotion live migration allows VMs to be moved between physical servers with no interruption in service to eliminate nearly all planned downtime.

Yes. vMotion is similar to XenMotion in that it minimizes downtime, except it does this through the creation of Virtual Servers.

Host Server Limits

The maximum limit per host for XenServer is 1000. More detailed information can be found on Citrix’s Configuration Limits document.

vSphere’s host server limits are slightly more complicated and updated often. For more information, see VMware’s current Configuration Maximums document.

Storage Specifications

XenServer supports USB, SATA, SAS, SMB, NFS, iSCSI, DAS, FC and NAS storage.

VMware supports FCoE and SSD for Swap; DAS, FC and NAS storage.

Technical Support

Technical support provided via blogs, brochures, email, and owner’s manual. Or you can purchase a maintenance plan through Citrix. Get a quote for the different maintenance plans at the Citrix store.

Technical support provided through a help desk or through remote training. Maintenance licenses are purchased separately. Compare VMware’s maintenance plans here.

XenServer vs VMware: Conclusions

Choosing between XenServer vs VMware really depends on the size and type of business you have and your budget. VMware’s vSphere has a much higher price tag than XenServer overall, and VSphere licenses do not come with maintenance. Citrix XenServer is free, with the option to purchase a maintenance plan. Many small to medium sized businesses with tight budgets choose XenServer vs VMware, which is better suited for much larger enterprises that have a sizable IT staff, and the funds to cover costs.

In addition to cost, your choice will also depend on your IT staff’s expertise and your environment. Overall, XenServer is a free, easy to use, enterprise ready platform. While vSphere has a lot of extra features, it is more complicated to use and more expensive. It may not be as practical if your environment can’t support vSphere or you don’t need those extra features.

Currently, our Alike software supports XenServer and Hyper-V. We also support Windows physical servers. If you are interested in XenServer, visit our XenServer backup website, or check out our blogs about XenServer.

We take pride in being the leading backup and disaster recovery solution for XenServer. Our engineers and technical staff include XenServer experts who have been working with this platform since it was in beta. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about XenServer vs VMware or about our Alike backup solution for XenServer and Hyper-V.

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