XenSource, VMware Conflict Holds Back Linux Virtualization

Community members are mediating between the two competing virtualization vendors in pursuit of a joint solution for the Linux kernel.

PORTLAND, Ore.—Dont expect to see a single virtualization technology baked into the Linux kernel in the near future.

Thats because XenSource and VMware are butting heads instead of working together to come up with a joint solution, Greg Kroah-Hartman told attendees on July 26 here at the annual OSCON (OReilly Open Source Conference).

Kroah-Harman works for Novells SUSE Labs and is also the Linux kernel maintainer for a number of subsystems and a maintainer of the stable Linux kernel team.

"Xen and VMware both supply huge patch-sets and are both trying to do the same thing, but their technologies dont work with one another, and we are telling them that we do not want to take one over the other, we want them to talk and work it out," he said.

Getting the two companies to talk to one another and work together has been requiring mediation by neutral parties, including people from the Linux distributions, the community and vendors, he said, adding that these mediators "are currently trying to kick them in the butt and get them to work together. So that solution is not coming anytime soon," he said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifThere has been a lot of speculation about whether Xen is actually ready for prime time. Click here to read more.

While it initially appeared that the Xen patches would be merged into the Linux kernel, which would then have only run on Xen, there has been a move away from that toward an interface in the kernel that would let it work with any virtualization hypervisor technology. Xen, VMware and Microsoft are all working on hypervisor technologies.

In a recent interview with eWEEK, Frank Artale, the vice president of business development at XenSource, said the Xen technology was ready for inclusion in the kernel and the company was ready to go.

But he declined to comment on comments by Red Hat executives and others in the community earlier in 2006 that the Xen technology is still "far from ready for inclusion in the kernel."

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

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read why Red Hat is pushing to have Xen virtualization technology added to the Linux kernel.

XenSource is also covering all of its options and even announced on July 18 a strategic relationship with Microsoft for the development of technology to provide interoperability between Xen-enabled Linux and Windows Server virtualization, Artale said.

"There is no better reward for any software developer than having a rich base of potential users, and that is one of the reasons we at XenSource are doing this," he said, adding that the open-source community should feel good that an API that they developed is broadly available on every platform.

Artale said Xen is being incorporated into Novells SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 platform, as well as into upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux releases, and said that, from a technical perspective, Linux has a protocol through which it talks to the Xen hypervisor.

In his OSCON presentation, Kroah-Hartman also noted that many of the features that Microsoft is making available in Windows Vista, when it ships some time in 2007, are already available in Linux. "There is a giant laundry list of features for Vista and many of these are things that Linux already has," he said.

Examples of this included features like memory hot-plug, which will not be in the first Vista release but a subsequent one; USB 2.0; support for Bluetooth; and ExpressCard, which "does not work on Windows. There are a lot of things that we do before that no one ever seems to remember," he said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.