Red Hat Officials: Not Feeling Xen

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-03-20 Print this article Print

The move to embed virtualization technology deep into the linux kernel is stuck on the workbench.

The move to embed virtualization technology deep into the Linux kernel is stuck on the workbench.

Despite earlier optimistic predictions by Red Hat executives and others in the open-source community that the work would take just a couple of months, they now say that the technology is still "far from ready for inclusion in the kernel."

Virtualization, which allows IT managers to run multiple copies of Linux on a single server, is key to many enterprise consolidation strategies. The problem with bringing virtualization to the Linux kernel is that the code for the Xen Project—an open-source effort to create virtual machines—wont stand still.

"I am an eternal optimist, but I really did not appreciate how extensively and rapidly the Xen code changes," Brian Stevens, Red Hats chief technology officer, told eWEEK at the March 14 launch of the companys Integrated Virtualization strategy in San Francisco.

For Red Hat, of Raleigh, N.C., a big part of the strategy is making virtualization an integrated part of the Linux system itself so that the system understands it is virtualized and can better participate in its management.

Stevens said that there are hundreds of changes on Xen code each week and that the Xen Projects latest version—Xen 3.0, released in December—is "still far from ready for inclusion in the kernel."

In October, Stevens took up the task of driving forward the merging of Xen into the Linux kernel, an initiative that had previously run out of steam. At the time, Stevens said the effort wasnt "a long-term project at all."

Today, it is more likely that components of the Xen virtualization technology will be merged into the kernel over time, starting with the Xen interfaces, rather than all of it as a single submission, Stevens said.

The upshot is that Red Hat will have to support Xen "out of tree"—which means it wont be supported or included in the stable Linux kernel or in the development kernel—for RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) Version 5. RHEL 5 is scheduled for general availability before the end of this year and will feature fully integrated virtualization.

Andrew Morton, the current maintainer of the Linux 2.6 kernel, who works for Open Source Development Labs, in Beaverton, Ore., told eWEEK he hasnt been hearing much on the Xen submission front. "I dont know what people have been doing lately—nothing has come my way," Morton said.

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


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