Red Hat and Novell bicker over whether open-source virtualization is enterprise-ready.
Red Hat chief technology Officer Brian Stevens escalated the debate over whether the open-source Xen virtualization technology is ready for prime time Aug. 16, saying Novell was being irresponsible and potentially damaging enterprises first experiences with Xen.
The Xen technology lets users run multiple operating systems as guest virtual machines on the same hardware, allowing for better resource utilization. Virtualization has become a hot topic for enterprise customers because they get more computing power out of existing resources.
Novell has baked Xen into its SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) 10 product, which shipped last month, while Red Hat is including it in its upcoming RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 5 release, which is slated to ship late this year or in early 2007.
"What makes us most nervous is putting a bad taste in someones mouth around the Xen technology, which we think is business-transforming. We should not screw this thing up and put a cloud around Xen," Stevens told eWeek in an interview at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo here.
"I would much rather a customer have a solid experience with Xen. I think they [Novell] are being cavalier. We know what we need to be enterprise-ready, and we already have a checklist of everything we need for that. They [Novell] have decided its more important to be first. Thats fine and maybe makes sense for them," Stevens said.
For his part, Novell CTO Jeff Jaffe told eWeek in an interview at LinuxWorld that his company has done an enormous amount of testing and firmly believes the Xen technology is ready.
"Could it be that Red Hat is embarrassed about the fact that they are six months late? This is the most transparent ploy and contradicts their own press release in March where they said Xen was ready. Its totally a joke," Jaffe said.
But Stevens said his and other comments from Red Hat executives on this issue were not designed to attack Novell but, rather, to be open with customers who, after hearing Novells comments that Xen is ready, then questioned why Red Hat was not already delivering it.
When asked by eWeek if he had run SLES 10 and seen its virtualization experience, Stevens said he had not, adding that all Red Hat needed to know were all the issues that its team was currently fixing with the upstream XenSource code base, from data corruption to "everything else."
"Do we want to bring that out to the market? Absolutely not. We want [Xen] to work and drive robustness," Stevens said.
Red Hat plans to bring virtualization to millions of servers in a pervasive way, and this means ongoing hard work to meet the broad criteria of enterprise readiness, Stevens said.
Jaffe agreed that creating virtualization technology "is not trivial" but added that many of Novells engineers participated in the Xen project to make sure that it was ready for prime time.
"There is a lot of industry momentum and support around the Xen technologies, from the chip manufacturers to the system-level vendors, the Linux distributors and even Microsoft, with its recently announced relationship with XenSource," Jaffe said.
Stevens said RHEL 5 will not ship without Xen, and the company will delay its release if that technology is not ready.
Indeed, Stevens said he is still recommending that customers use VMwares VMware. IBM is taking a similar path.
Kevin Leahy, the director for virtualization at IBM, which has been contributing and helping with the development of Xen, told eWeek at LinuxWorld that Xen is ready, but the question is whether its proven.
"So thats what you come down to. Theres lots of ready technology, but what surrounds technology is practice and skills and services and capability and support. Those are the things that make it enterprise-ready as opposed to technology-ready," Leahy said. "If we thought it wasnt ready at all, we would not have said we are going to provide support for SLES 10. But we are also going to be cautious in how we recommend people use it."