Mental Ward

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This Is Not a XenBlog Entry

If you're building a Xen-based product, you'd better be careful what you name it. If you call it "XenBlank" or "XenFred" or "XenMyReallyCoolProduct," you will likely be getting a polite but firm letter from the Citrix legal department.

Citrix has decided to clamp down on what it calls "widespread and unregulated use" of the Xen trademark. Naturally, this is to protect the general public as well as Citrix. From a blog posting by Stephen Spector, Senior Program Manager of

"This is for the benefit of all those in the Xen community who distribute and contribute to the open source project, and not just for the benefit of Citrix."

All those in the Xen development community who believe that, please raise your hands. OK, I see one guy, way in the back, with his hand halfway up. Glad we got that settled!

Sorry about the heavy sarcasm, but it's hard not to be cynical about this. Whenever a company says "hey, it's for everyone's benefit, not just ours," I get the same reaction as when a ball player leaves one team for another that dumps a truckload of cash on his doorstep and says "It's not about the money." Of course it's about the money. And it's hard to believe that non-Citrix Xen developers feel greatly benefited now that Citrix has decided to tighten up its trademark policy.

A little background for the Xen uninitiated (more detail is available here.) Xen is the name of an open source hypervisor. Its main project, XenSource, was bought last year by Citrix for $500 million. XenSource no longer exists as a brand; it's now the commercial product XenServer (the latest version of which is 4.1). However, development around open source Xen continues; the main Web site is The project is now part of the Citrix empire, but operates autonomously, with its own Advisory Board, which determines trademark policy among other functions.

Commercial Xen, which are products developed by Citrix, include XenApp, XenDesktop, the aforementioned XenServer and so on. It seems that naming conventions with "Xen" at the beginning are the ones that will be targeted. Thus, you can develop products around Xen all you want. Just don't call them "XenSomethingOrOther" -- that will likely bring the courier to your door with a certified letter.

Citrix is spending many, many millions of dollars developing a comprehensive suite of virtualization products, and it makes good business sense to protect its brand. It's also important to point out that Citrix has put a lot of resources into, which weren't available before.

I just wish it had decided on a different name than Xen as the centerpiece of that brand, since Xen is still a vibrant open source project, and Citrix looks like it will continue to appropriate that name.

Do you like this direction in the Xen name? If you're a developer, is this no big deal? Are you concerned that the name "Xen" will eventually be wholly owned by Citrix, and the open source hypervisor will have to adopt a new name? Or is this much ado about nothing? Tell me.

Posted by Keith Ward on 05/27/2008 at 12:48 PM


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