Xen Hypervisor: The Future of Enterprise IT?: Page 2

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Xen’s Strong Points

Xen has several advantages that make it the front-runner in the race to become the hypervisor standard. First, its code base contains just over 40,000 lines, so it imposes a very light burden on overall performance.

Second, Xen has attracted the support of a large number of industry heavyweights. It’s already included in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, Novell’s SUSE Enterprise Linux 10, and Fedora Core 5. In addition, Intel, IBM, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems have all announced various levels of support for the technology.

Finally, Xen is cheap. The standalone hypervisor is available for free, and Xen-based management tools are considerably less expensive than those from market leader VMWare.

Crosby sums up Xen’s advantages over their primary competition, asserting, “Currently, Xen has 80% of the features, 120% of the performance, and 20% of the price of VMWare.”

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With a resume like that, how could Xen fail to succeed in its bid to become the hypervisor of choice for the enterprise? In a word, VMWare.

Gartner’s Weiss notes, “The idea that all of VMWare’s installed base will convert to Xen is problematic. VMWare is not just going to disappear.”

Some estimates place VMWare’s market share as high as 50%, and the company shows no signs of slowing growth. According to company releases, in the third quarter of 2006, VMWare’s revenues totaled $188.5 million, 86% higher than the previous year. Furthermore, “VMware delivered its highest year-over-year growth rate in five quarters and the second consecutive quarter of sequential quarterly growth of 20%.”

Additionally, although virtualization can be very helpful in certain areas, not all applications can be virtualized. It will likely take time for IT departments to sort out which servers and processes should be virtualized, as well as selecting which management tools they will use. “There will be a 3-4 year period of growth as users sort out management capabilities,” predicts Weiss. “There are too many variables to say that this is going to be a mass market anytime soon.”

Finally, the biggest unknown in the market is Microsoft’s latest virtualization product, due for release in 2008. And of course, Microsoft is likely to be a tough competitor.

For all of those reasons, the smart money predicts that the Xen hypervisor will have a major role in enterprise virtualization, but it won’t be knocking out VMWare and Microsoft products anytime soon.

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