XenSource to Launch Latest Enterprise Virtualization Tool

With XenEnterprise V4, XenSource believes it's ready to challenge VMware's Virtual Infrastructure suite.

XenSource is preparing to take the next big step in its virtualization evolution with the latest version of its XenEnterprise suite, which is ready to roll out Aug. 20.

XenSource is looking to offer an improved product for a growing list of enterprise customers, while providing a low-cost alternative to industry heavyweight VMware and its Virtual Infrastructure suite.

XenSource, with founders that helped create the open-source Xen hypervisor, now has more than 500 paying customers and is looking to create a larger name for itself in the virtualization space, an area that is growing and includes a number of other players vying for a piece of the market, including Microsoft, SWsoft and Virtual Iron Software.

To help bring its product into a more mainstream and larger market, XenSource signed a June 22 agreement with NEC, which bundles XenSources technology with its line of x86 servers.

The latest version of XenEnterprise product—V4—offers a number of improvements over the older version, including enhanced storage capabilities, the ability to deliver high availability and fault-tolerant backup and support for 64-bit application guests.

The platform will also use the 3.1 version of the Xen hypervisor, released May 22, and offers support for both 32- and 64-bit virtual machines.


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One of the more significant improvements in the new version of XenEnterprise is the softwares ability to take advantage of pooled computing and storage resources, said Simon Crosby, chief technology officer of the Palo Alto, Calif., company.

The feature, XenResourcePools, can support up to 16 servers plus NFS (Network File System) and iSCSI SAN (storage area network) storage. This feature enables users to perform a number of different tasks, including thin provisioning and the ability to take "snapshots" of virtual machines. It also allows for shared and private storage.

Another advantage is a feature, dubbed XenAPI, that allows for open management integration by opening the software suite to third-party ISVs and OEMs to develop applications for XenEnterprise. On July 23, XenSource offered a roadmap for how this would work with its software when the company announced an OEM agreement with Symantec.

That agreement will allow Symantec to embed its storage and data security software into XenSources virtualization platform. The two companies are also working on a plan to develop a new product called XenEnterprise HighAvailability, which will provide failover for virtual machines.

"Right now we have 500-plus customers, and while we might be behind in the market, we have taken all the production risks out of the latest version of XenEnterprise in order to create a much better product," Crosby said.

The new storage abilities coupled with XenSource offering the high availability and fault tolerance demanded by enterprises should help the company compete against the likes of VMware, said Chris Wolf, an analyst with the Burton Group.

"The biggest improvement I have seen is the softwares ability to provide for backup and a high availability, which really precluded XenSources enterprise adoption," Wolf said.


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As for the market, Wolf said XenSource has made significant strides toward competing with VMwares Virtual Infrastructure 3, but added that VMware will likely offer a significant update to its platform soon.

"I think that if you ran a check box-to-check box comparison, XenSource has the core features that a company would need to run virtualization and they have a huge pool of innovation," Wolf said. "That said, I think VMware is going to be looking to revise its VI 3 feature set. I think thats where they are going this year and I think they will be raising the bar."

In addition to some of the other features, XenSource is adding live migration technology, called XenMotion, as well as a new unified management interface.

For scalability, the fourth version of XenEnterprise will support up to 128GB of memory for the host machines and 32GB of guest virtual machines. The software can also handle one to 32 physical CPUs and up to eight virtual CPUs. It supports up to eight physical NICs (network interface cards) as well as eight virtual NICs.

With the 64-bit hypervisor, XenEnterprise can handle both 64- and 32-bit virtual guests, including the 64-bit version of Microsofts Windows Server 2003 and Windows Small Business Server 2003.

Pricing for XenEnterprise V4 starts at $1,599 for an annual license per dual-socket server, and $2,499 for a perpetual license per dual socket server. The company is also offering a midrange product that includes several of the new features, but not XenMotion or XenResourcePools.


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