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XenSource bulks up and makes more pools with v4

VMware-like tools but less like VMware

Security for virtualized datacentres

XenSource has dished out a fresh version of its flagship server virtualization product that should help the vendor compete with market leader VMware.

XenEnterprise Version 4.0 brings a host of new tools for managing large numbers of virtual machines, physical servers and storage boxes. In addition, the software provides serious scale improvements, including 64-bit support that allows for systems with more memory and support for both larger virtual and physical systems.

XenSource has placed particular emphasis on XenEnterprise's ability to create so-called resource pools. Customers can use the new XenCenter management interface and new XenMotion virtual machine shuffling system to link together groups of servers around shared storage systems. With this combination of software, you can transport virtual servers across physical systems on-the-fly and tap into automated configuration managers.

The technology is very similar to that offered for many moons by VMware, although XenSource claims an infrastructure edge. VMware relies on its own file system to establish relationships between systems which "breaks your existing back-up" configuration, according to XenSource CTO Simon Crosby.

XenSource, by contrast, uses a minimally invasive approach that lets a customer see all of their shared hosts, virtual machines and storage systems in a given cluster. The software works best with iSCSI and NAS systems today and will include Fibre Channel support in a future XenEnterprise release via a deal with Symantec around Storage Foundation.

Away from the resource pools, we find a 64-bit hypervisor that adds support for systems with more memory - 128GB per physical host to be exact. The 64-bitness lets XenSource tackle the SQL and Exchange Server 2007 crowds.

There's also increased memory support for guest operating systems - up to 32GB. And the per guest virtual CPU limit has been raised to an 8-way SMP. That's twice what VMware offers on both fronts. Lastly, there's support for boxes with up to 32 physical processors.

XenSource keeps going after the idea that it's an open platform provider and not a direct competitor to VMware as such.

"It is perhaps with a bit of humility that we've come to this conclusion," Crosby told us. "But we don't believe that the other 95 per cent of the market (yet to pick up virtualization software) will be driven by a single agenda."

XenSource is looking for other vendors to follow Symantec's lead and build add-on programs via its open API. In so doing, XenSource creates a market for other software makers and can tackle VMware's financial might with the might of a broad partner network.

We'll not spend too much ink on this though, as it looks like Citrix is set to acquire XenSource, according to our sources. Lord knows how Citrix will tweak XenSource's strategy.

XenEnterprise Version 4.0 officially ships on Aug. 20 and starts at $1,599 for an annual license on a two-socket box. A perpetual license runs $2,499. ®

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