The breathless enthusiasm about virtualization is exemplified by Jeffries & Co. analyst Katherine Egbert, who told Marketwatch, We also continue to believe virtualization is the next major sea change in IT infrastructure."
XenSource CTO Simon Crosby
An emerging company at the very center of this molten sector is XenSource, acquired by Citrix for $500 million in August. The company develops both server and desktop virtualization software for Window and Linux environments. At the core of the firms technology is its open source Xen hypervisor.
Only in mid October 2007 did the young XenSource achieve the 1000-customer mark, yet the company is already partnering with some heavyweights. HP will sell XenServer Enterprise Edition on its servers, and Dell will offer XenCenter as an option on its x86 PowerEdge boxes.
Most important especially in terms of competing with market leader VMware Xen architecture will be fully compatible with Viridian, the Microsoft hypervisor scheduled to debut with Windows Server 2008.
Helping guide XenSource in this period of rapid growth is Simon Crosby, the companys CTO and one of virtualizations most ardent evangelists. Crosby spoke to Datamation about the future of virtualization, the companys partnership with Microsoft, and XenSources competition with VMware.
Q: The XenSource applications are based on open source. In terms of the virtualization market, what are the pluses or minuses of an open source approach?
Open source is an extremely valuable tool for innovation. One of the key things about the Xen code base is that it can be delivered to market by multiple vendors, and will be.
One of the biggest challenges that the hardware vendors have had is that vendors like Microsoft take five years to get new features to market for them. But of course we have support on Day One. So the day that the first Intel VT CPU ships, we have the support. The day the hardware virtualization [launches] we have the support. So weve become the industrys first and best support for an enhanced hardware experience.
And at the same time, weve been very anxious to make sure that Xen as an engine was open sourced, but that multiple different vendors could have economic business models built around that. So we commoditize the engine its the code base that everyone agrees should be commoditized and then it has much broader applicability.
So, for example, Xen runs on [certain] PDAs, and Samsung is doing work with those as a product prototype. But it also runs on supercomputers from SGI. That way, we dont have just one car theres everything from Porches to Minis. So you dont limit its applicability.
Q: What about the relationship between the Xen hypervisor and Microsofts Viridian? How will that work?
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Microsoft implements the Viridian hypervisor as an add-in operating system component. The architecture of Viridian is very similar to Xen, but it is Microsoft-built entirely.
And so the way to think about Viridian with Windows Server 2008 is pretty much like Red Hat does with Xen, or Novell does with Xen, or now Sun is doing with Xen with Solaris 10. So its a hypervisor included with the OS, which is basically the Xen architecture, but written by Microsoft. We have a partnership with Microsoft to make sure that Viridian interoperates with the world.
In fact, the partnership with Microsoft is extremely strong, and getting stronger. Theyre important in the context of Citrix, and very important in the context of the integrated hypervisor, the embedded hypervisor, which will be shipped by Dell as of the beginning of next year.
Now, once an integrated hypervisor is part of a box, it doesnt get installed. And you can imagine that thats a very unnerving thing for an operating system vendor. And our intention is to make sure that it isnt unnerving. So the plug-compatibility statement to Microsoft is that, basically, virtual machines created in that world will simply run in Viridian.
So the Microsoft partnership is actually very profound for us, and indeed we view Viridian as a valid implementation of the hypervisor, so all of our dynamic virtualization services components will run on top of Viridian.
The way to think about this is: we can sell the heck out of our product for the next year, until Virdian shows up. But when Viridian shows up, over the year or so after that it will have a footprint probably far greater than we could ever achieve on our own.
Im interested in number of seats served with virtualization. And the hard economics say, use that as a valid implementation of a hypervisor; the hypervisor was always free we made it free. Leverage that through value-added products that you deliver to the customer to deliver the value proposition of virtualization.
Next page: Competing against VMWare