Xen Open-Source Takes On VMware

virtualization Linux

The Xen project originated in England at the University of Cambridge. Ian Pratt, founder of the project, confirmed last week that developers from Red Hat and Novell Suse are preparing "testing packages" to be released in the near future.

Xen will be available in test builds but won't be bundled with commercial distributions or supported initially, he said. Neither Red Hat nor Novell would comment.

Xen has also joined forces with top Linux distributors, chip vendors and platform vendors to create a consortium that will enable open-source virtualization. Plex 86 and user-mode Linux, two other open-source virtualization projects, have failed to get much corporate support. Xen backers are hoping that corporate support and the consortium will make Xen a household name.

"Red Hat is packaging Xen in the near future as part of Fedora. We've talked to Suse," said Steven Hand, a computer scientist at the University of Cambridge's computer lab. "We have a lot of momentum in the open-source community, and now we're pushing into the mainstream."

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Xen does not support Windows because it would involve modifying the OS kernel. However, virtualization planned in next-generation CPUs from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices will make it easier for Xen to support unmodified operating systems, including Windows, Pratt said.

Dave McCrory, founder of Surgient, Austin, Texas, said there is a market for a low-cost or no-cost open-source spin-off of VMware, but there are limitations that could stymie its acceptance.

"If someone could come up with an enterprise virtualization solution that was open-source, it would be fantastic. However, a lot of the virtualization [market] is consumed by patents created by VMware and Connectix and now owned by EMC and Microsoft," he said.

Microsoft Research was one of the original funding sources of the Xen project, but later pulled out. HP Labs and Intel Labs now back Xen.