XenSource CEO Addresses Microsoft, Red Hat-Novell Dispute

XenSource CEO Peter Levine spoke with CRN Senior Writer Paula Rooney after his LinuxWorld Expo keynote about his company's partnership with Microsoft and other hot topics.

Prior to joining XenSource in mid February, Levine was a Managing Director at venture capital firm Mayfield Fund. He also was executive vice president in charge of sales and marketing and project development at Veritas and served as an engineer on MIT's Project Athena.

CRN: Some in open source community have criticized your partnership with Microsoft. What's your response to that?

Levine: I appreciate everyone's opinion. Our deal with Microsoft substantiates everything that the open source community believes in and that is Linux becomes a first class citizen in Microsoft's environment. The whole Linux movement now has been validated by Microsoft. That's a big deal.

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CRN: You said during your keynote that Microsoft's hypervisor is in some ways similar to Xen. Is XenSource helping Microsoft develop its Viridian virtualization hypervisor for the Windows Server?

Levine: No, we're helping Microsoft build the ability for Linux to better work on Windows.

CRN: There continues to be a dispute between Red Hat and Novell about the market readiness of Xen. Is it ready for prime time?

Levine: The answer depends on what is meant by prime time. We believe that the market goes from mid-market single server test and development to the data center. So where is Red Hat talking about? What they may mean is, 'Is it ready for the data center?' Anytime when you have a technology that's innovative it takes time to get baked. It's going to take some time for the data center but for mid-market and test and development it's absolutely ready.

CRN: But does it work? Is there still unfinished business relative to the code itself or its integration with the Linux kernel that would require ISVs and customers who choose to deploy Xen from Novell SUSE Linux 10 today to recertify and test that code again in the relatively near future?

Levine: You'll have to ask Novell. I don't know.

CRN: Will Xen itself be modified significantly in the next few months?

Levine: It's not about Xen changes. There will be iterations, but it won't change that much. It's the integration into the operating system that is a big job. Xen has been out there for a while. This discussion between Novell and Red Hat has nothing to do with us per se. Novell decided to release something based on Xen and we're very pleased they did that.

CRN: But is there something unfinished about Xen that could impact SLES 10 [SUSE Linux Enterprise Server] Xen deployments?

Levine: I don't know what Novell does with our stuff or Red Hat does with our stuff.

CRN: Is Red Hat waiting to release its distribution because Xen isn't baked or there are imminent changes to the Linux kernel or interoperability interfaces? Or is Red Hat generating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) as part of its competitive strategy against Novell?

CRN: I'd hope [Xen support is being uploaded to the kernel]. I think Red Hat is very committed to the Xen project. I think they're waiting to do more testing certification. Red Hat has a large market of data center customers that expect this stuff to be well integrated. Look, it's only four months [between the release of Novell SLES 10 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 or RHEL 5]. It's not like we're talking a long time.

CRN: Red Hat said it might push the release of RHEL 5 until early 2007.

Levine: That's what operating system vendors do. It really depends on their own target market. What does it mean [for Xen] to be integrated into the operating system? I'm not going to say there are no issues with Xen but most of the stuff [at issue] is related to the integration of Xen into the operating environment.

CRN: But Xen is safe and ready to deploy?

Levine: Yes, but depending on the environment, it's safe.

CRN: But it works?

Levine: of course, it works. But XenSource, we're going after five to 10 installations.

CRN: What might Red Hat gain by delaying the release of RHEL 5?

Levine: Their market is enterprise Linux and a certain expectation their customers have is that it has to run thousands of guests on tens of thousands of systems and the more systems you have, the more complicated it gets. If Red Hat had a product now for the midmarket, it's fine now for midmarket. We're standing by our [product] but we're not going after the data center market like Red Hat. Anytime you do more testing, the longer they wait, the more testing they do and the better it gets.

CRN: but do you expect Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 will have more virtualization functionality that Novell's SLES 10?

Levine: In terms if functionality? I don't know. But I think it's about integration of the whole thing.