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XenSource CEO had to drink to face first Xen install

Under the influence and high on open source power

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LinuxWorld Software start-up XenSource is starting to demonstrate that it's a grown-up company. For example, XenSource's CEO has now learned about the open source software model that underlies the company's business and has even installed the company's flagship product.

"I didn't get the power of open source," XenSource's relatively new chief Peter Levine, told LinuxWorld attendees today, during a keynote here. "You have to do a DNA transfer a little bit to get the power of the open source community.

"I have really become a huge believer in the power of open source."

A former Veritas employee, Levine comes from the proprietary software world. Now, however, he has clearly embraced the open source religion, as evidenced by all the "communal power" surging through his veins.

Levine's open source vigor proved dramatic enough to inspire a recent test installation of XenSource's server virtualization software. Well, the open source vigor and some beers from XenSource's 4th of July party that put Levine "under the influence."

"I got the software and a couple of guest operating systems installed in 15 minutes," Levine said. "Some guys in Ireland joked that we should do a CD and two cans of Guinness (as an installation pack)."

Beyond Levine's recognition of the open source model and his drinking, there are other indications that XenSource has matured.

The company today presented its most concrete for-profit plans to date.

Starting next year, XenSource plans to start rolling out management modules that complement its core virtualization software for the Linux, Windows and Solaris operating systems. The modules will include software for high availability, security, storage management, virtual appliances and application lifecycle management. XenSource declined to be more specific about exactly when these various products will arrive or how much they will cost.

It also declined to give an exact idea of how the management packages will compete against similar software from the likes of HP, Symantec and IBM. Levine stressed time and again that XenSource will present an open management API to third parties and would love to see outside developers embrace Xen. At the same time, however, XenSource does seem to have clear plans in place to encroach on parts of the management stack.

Xen's faster, more efficient paravirtualization model is being mimicked by market leader VMware and laggard Microsoft. Meanwhile, companies such as SWsoft are trying a different approach by using so-called containers to run numerous operating systems and applications on a single server.

Levine presented VMware as the king of "generation one" of the virtualization wars and as a laggard in the upcoming generation two.

"The current market is largely dominated by VMware," he said. "The current market offers limited choice.

"When you are only one vendor, there is a very low rate of innovation. You think the old architecture is just fine, and it can just happily exist for many years."

Adding to the confrontation between XenSource and VMware, Levine said that VMware's chief Diane Greene backed out of giving a shared keynote with him at the last minute.

"Diane decided not to come to the thing."

XenSource has been full of rhetoric since hitting the scene as the major open source rival to proprietary server virtualization software. It often takes shots at VMware and has used a cushy marketing relationship with Microsoft as an effective promotion tool. Microsoft plans to support Linux guest operating systems on the upcoming Longhorn Server via the open source Xen and XenSource. Although, you have to wonder who cares about such an arrangement given the rare breed of administrator looking to run his Linux applications on top of Windows.

VMware's success has made it an obvious target for XeSource, SWsoft and others, and it looks like these rivals might be able to creep in on the EMC subsidiary's turf. One IT wizard from the construction giant Caterpillar told The Register that he's looking for a way to get off VMware and onto something that performs better on x86 systems. The staffer went up to a XenSource executive after Levine's keynote and asked for the company to send someone out to Illinois post haste.

Critics of VMware argue that it's great for test and development but not such a performance champ in production data centers.

XenSource will be able to back up such jabs when it grows up some more and starts making millions. Until then, drink up, Peter. ®

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