Xen hypervisor here to stay, says Citrix CTO at LinuxWorld/Next Generation Data Center

Despite the chatter that the Xen hypervisor is under threat from Hyper-V and VMware, it's here to stay, affirmed Citrix CTO Simon Crosby at LinuxWorld/Next Generation Data Center.

Simon Crosby, chief technology officer at Citrix Systems Inc., gave the final morning keynote at the LinuxWorld/Next Generation Data Center conference in San Francisco Aug. 7 and used the pulpit to emphasize the strength and vitality of the Xen hypervisor.

For more on LinuxWorld and on virtualization:
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Entitled "Data Center of the Future: How the Delivery of Technology Will Change," Crosby's keynote focused more on Xen, its standing in the market and related news than on the future of the IT industry.

Crosby opened the keynote by remarking that all hypervisors are now free, noting that the only non-free hypervisor today is Microsoft's Hyper-V, which costs less than $30.

Crosby also took pains to highlight data indicating that "Xen is healthy, Xen is vibrant," presumably in response to analyst Brian Madden, who created a stir recently by predicting that Citrix would drop XenSource now that Hyper-V is on the market.

Some analysts believe that because Xen is controlled by the open source community, it will never compete with proprietary virtualization products from companies like VMware Inc., Crosby told attendees. He disagrees, and argued that by keeping Xen open to the community, Xen will be driven into every piece of infrastructure, not just in servers, and will help make virtualization ubiquitous.

One nation, under Xen
Crosby also said that while there are many proprietary implementations of the Xen hypervisor code, like Oracle Corp.'s Oracle VM, no one is superior to another.

You would be surprised where Xen shows up.
Simon Crosby
CTOCitrix Systems Inc.

"[Citrix XenSource] is not interested in differentiating from the code. The Oracle hypervisor isn't any better than any other Xen-based hypervisor, no matter what they say about it being three times better; it is utter nonsense," Crosby said.

In 2007, XenSource was acquired by Citrix Systems, and contributes about $10 million each year toward the Xen hypervisor. As of May 2008, Xen has been embedded in flash on HP and Dell servers and also on laptops.

"We are now participating in weekly calls with vendors who want the Xen hypervisor embedded in their equipment," Crosby said.

He said Xen has about 17% market share, according to Yankee Research, but argued the statistic is low. "It probably accounts only for servers. … You would be surprised where Xen shows up."

Crosby also emphasized the interoperability characteristics of the Xen hypervisor and key application programming interfaces and application binary interfaces (ABIs). "Being a standard hypervisor, Xen respects the ABI between a hypervisor and a guest and also supports industry [Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF)] standard interfaces," he said.

He also discussed Open Virtualization Format (OVF) development, which will set a standard for packaging and deploying virtual machines and announced that Citrix will open its Project Kensho OVF tools to the open source community in the hopes that it will accelerate the adoption of free, interoperable virtualization.

The Microsoft sticking point
Taking on Microsoft once again, Crosby said that Redmond has to change its licensing policies to allow independent software vendors to redistribute Windows virtual appliances and allow end users to apply the licensing via OVF.

As for the IT future part of the session, Crosby pointed to open source-based cloud computing – a popular topic at the conference. Cloud-computing providers like Amazon.com currently use the Xen hypervisor to virtualize their environments.

"Everything from consolidation benefits to truly fault tolerant computing can be found in the cloud. There is no reason for us … not to adopt this stuff," Crosby said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer. And check out the Server Virtualization blog .

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