Xen on the Radar

By eweek  |  Posted 2006-04-03 Email Print this article Print

Going back to Xen, with version 3.0, it seems to have really made its way onto the radar. You have Red Hat and Novell talking about integrating Xen onto their operating systems. Youve been outspoken about that idea. Can you give us your thoughts? What you do when you tie the two things together is, you end up creating a fairly complex interface, where youre bringing everything together, and then you tend to sacrifice your ability to run any operating system as a first-class citizen. This is just huge value for people, to have that freedom of choice. When a customer goes to deploy a service [or] an application, theyre focused on the application. Theyre not focused on the operating system. So when they go to deploy that application, they just want to get the optimal software stack to run that application.
For instance, if its a secure application, they want to grab the minimal, most secure OS that will support the application to maximize their security. People want to have the perfect operating system for whatever application it is that theyre going to run. Once you tie the virtualization [technology] to the OS, it could be at a very high cost in terms of providing that freedom of choice.
One way to look at it is if you think about appliances, or even software as a service, a customer using a firewall appliance or salesforce.com [appliance], if you ask them what operating system theyre running, they might not really care. They shouldnt care. Were seeing that not in virtual appliances, where you take a virtual machine and you put the software stack in it—the application and the operating system—and all of a sudden, its the concern of the application what operating system its using, and of no concern to the customer, just as in a hardware appliance. Weve seen tremendous traction where weve had hundreds of thousands of people using VMware appliances. Oracles distributed over 100,000 copies of 10g, and IBM and BEA distributing virtual machine appliances with their software stack. We have a browser appliance that weve over 200,000 downloads of on our Web site. People are seeing the value of these appliances as a way of distributing and managing and updating their software, and all youre really concerned about is what the appliance does.
What of the arguments that tying the virtualization technology to the operating system increases the efficiency of the hardware, or reduces the complexity of the virtual environment? In terms of reducing the complexity, I dont buy that. I think potentially theres a small, incremental hardware utilization thing you could get, but paravirtualization addresses that. So VMware is working with the open source community around that, and weve also announced that were supporting paravirtualization as well. When you talk about reducing complexity, the underlying assumption there is that youre only running one operating system. But in this world, people run a lot of operating systems. … Then you have specialty operating systems, like secure operating systems and so forth, so once you have this multi-OS environment, you want to make sure you can run all those OSes as first-class citizens, and you want to have a common infrastructure and management for that. Thats one reason were being so aggressive about pushing out a single way to manage virtual machines and sharing that with the world. In a multi-OS world, I dont think it reduces complexity at all, I think it adds to the complexity to build it into one operating system, and it also greatly endangers this highly valuable freedom of choice. Weve surveyed our customers, and over 40 percent of them are running mixed operating system environments today inside the VMware virtual infrastructure, and thats a growing number. This is something that wasnt possible before virtualization. And here now you have multi-OS environments on single systems in over 40 percent of our virtual infrastructure customers, and growing significantly every quarter. Next Page: The rise of open source.


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