Is Xen Ready for

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-04-02 Print this article Print

Prime Time?"> While Xen currently runs Linux and NetBSD, there is ongoing work to enable it to also run Sun Microsystems Solaris. Upcoming hardware features in Intel and AMD processors will allow Xen to run other operating systems such as Windows. FSWs Foran is one customer unlikely to use baked-in virtualization, largely because he said he feels significant hurdles still need to be overcome in remediating the limitations that force lock-in to an operating system or a hardware platform.
"Xen lacks that sort of enterprise focus, even in the 3.0 community release, while Microsoft requires vendor lock-in with the Microsoft Operations Manager," Foran said. "VMware has built-in management tools and allows us to remain vendor-neutral and avoid any kind of lock-in."
Diane Greene, VMware president and executive vice president at parent company EMC, told eWEEK that while there is a technical argument that a vendor could drive hardware slightly more efficiently through tight integration of the operating system and virtualization, this potential limited improvement comes at a high cost. "The integration effectively bundles together the operating system and the virtualization, and the decoupling is lost," Greene said. "More importantly, bundling virtualization in the operating system puts the ability to exploit freedom of choice around the software stack in jeopardy. Operating system vendors have a financial incentive to move customers to their latest operating system, not to provide software choice to the customer." Greene argued that the ideal scenario for customers would be virtualization bundled into hardware and supported through an industry-standard interface for all VMs. The VMs could then run any operating system built for the underlying hardware. What does rumor say to expect from LinuxWorld? Click here to read more. Tim Marsland, CTO for operating platforms at Sun, in Santa Clara, Calif., said another concern about Xen is that various vendors will tweak the hypervisor to couple it with their operating systems and create interoperability woes later. "This will be hard to resist unless there is some industrywide effort to keep some level of interoperability [for Xen]," said Marsland. While Sun intends to follow much the same model as Red Hat and Novells SUSE division, it is unwilling to give a time frame for the inclusion of Xen virtualization in Solaris. "The Xen development is not yet finished, and there is sufficient uncertainty about the technology at this point. I dont believe that the Xen code is really ready for the enterprise as yet," Marsland said. The rush to Xen So why the rush to Xen? Perhaps Novells SUSE and Red Hat are racing to include Xen to differentiate themselves from each other and to compete with VMware, said Marsland. Novell CEO Jack Messman acknowledged as much. "We watched what happened with proprietary virtualization technologies like those from VMware and realized that this was something we needed to do ourselves to remain competitive and meet customer needs," Messman said. As a result, Novell this summer will release SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 with the Xen hypervisor completely integrated into the operating system. Competitor Red Hat announced in March that it will also tightly integrate the hypervisor capabilities into its operating system. However, as vendors such as Red Hat, Novell and others move to embrace the open-source Xen technology and forge relationships with XenSource, founded by the original Xen development team, questions are being raised about the future of proprietary software such as VMwares going forward. Red Hat, Novell and Sun all have existing relationships with VMware, but those relationships could change over time. In fact, Novell CTO Jeff Jaffe said the company wants to move away from proprietary products and toward those that are developed and supported by the open-source community. "However, in the short term, we need to do business with vendors like VMware to provide our customers with technologies that are currently available, reliable and stable," Jaffe said. Suns Marsland said he believes VMware will have to deal with "some pretty harsh competition from the world that is commoditizing around it" as well as from what comes out of Microsoft. "This is going to be an interesting time for them," Marsland said. But, that said, Sun plans to continue its relationship with VMware, as "there is a difference between a technology that is evolving and one that is dominant in the market. We will continue to offer the VMware product as long as our customers want to use it," Marsland said. Additional reporting by Jeffrey Burt Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel