XenSource Launches XenOptimizer, Xen 3.0

On Monday, the creators of Xen – XenSource -- officially launched its first commercial virtualization platform and the completion of the Xen 3.0 release.

XenSource's first commercial offering, called XenOptimizer, is an integrated virtual infrastructure management platform that will go up against VMware's VirtualCenter and VMotion technologies, executives said.

The key to that release is the completion of Xen 3.0, a significantly enhanced update to the open source project's release that offers important enterprise features such as support for 32-way SMP guests, 32 bit, PAE, and 64 bit processors and support for unmodified operating systems using Intel's VT-x virtualization technology. Support for AMD's "Pacifica" technology will be available in the near future, executives of XenSource said.

Industry observers say Xen 3.0 is a significant threat to proprietary solutions with its enterprise-class features and widespread support from open source leaders Red Hat, Novell, IBM, Sun and the Open Source Development Labs. Red Hat and Novell, for instance, will incorporate Xen 3.0 in their respective next generation Linux distributions in 2006.

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The XenOptimizer code, which is in beta testing and will be available in early 2006, will provide advanced virtualization capabilities for Linux data center management, including dynamic physical-to-virtual conversion features, instant-on drag-and-drop provisioning of virtual servers, the ability to move a virtual server between running physical servers, zero downtime maintenance, and centralized monitoring and fine grained control of CPU, memory, network and storage resources through a dashboard, the company said.

XenOptimizer differs from VMware in that it runs Windows workloads "happily" but XenSource's first commercial offering will support Linux only, executives said. A Windows implementation of XenOptimizer will likely be offered in the future, executives said.

XenSource said it has the "fastest hypervisor" on the market and support for more hardware architectures and guest operating systems than competitors.

HP contributed a port of Xen to Intel's Itanium architecture and IBM ported Xen to its PowerPC architecture, and that port is close to completion, executives said. Additionally, Sun is expected to support Xen in Solaris 10 and plans a port of Xen for Solaris x86, and possibly its Sparc architecture.

Even as VMware faces competition from Xen, Microsoft , SWSoft and newcomers Parallels and Prospero on the pure virtualization front, the launch of XenOptimizer and other management platforms signals that the virtualization software battle is moving upstream.

As XenSource went public with its news of XenOptimizer, for example, other ISVs in the growing virtual infrastructure software market including Virtual Iron, IBM and Akimbi said they are moving ahead with their respective Virtual Iron, Virtual Engine 2.0 and Slingshot platforms for managing virtual data centers.

At VMworld in October, market leader VMware launched an upgrade of its ESX 3.0 and pioneer Virtual Center 2.0 platform with advanced features for the distributed data center.

XenSource intends to build a commercial ecosystem around its Xen 3.0 and XenOptimizer code consisting of OEMs, ISVs and VARs and service partners, though it has not yet created a channel program, executives said. XenOptimizer is currently in beta testing with Fortune 100 clients, the company said.

"We have a professional services arm but we're a small company and need partners to scale," said Simon Crosby, chief technology officer at XenSource. "It's more of an OEM resale [initially] but it provides and alternative for ISVs and for Vars and resellers in the channel."

Partners who specialize in virtualization said customers are becoming interested in Xen and the upstart XenSource Inc. but they will evaluate its commercial progress before adoption.

"We are sticking with the major offering from VMware and Microsoft Virtual Server," said John Dodge, a solutions architect with Foedus, New York. "I've talked to clients about Xen and they think it's good for experimental work, niche applications or low budget projects. But they like the big company names supporting it and especially it's future potential."

Palo Alto-Calif., based VMware has significant mind- and market share but observers note there is plenty of room for lower cost providers and other ISVs with specialized offerings for storage and management virtualization technologies.

According to a report issued by IDC research in late October, the software virtualization market is expected to grow to roughly $15 billion by 2009.