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BEA balances VMware with Xen

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Having snuggled up to VMware, the proprietary and expensive virtualization platform, BEA Systems is going to the other extreme by officially backing Xen.

The middleware vendor is working to certify its recently launched WebLogic Server Virtual Edition against the free, open source Xen hypervisor by the end of this year.

Guy Churchward, BEA vice president of engineering, told The Register WebLogic Server Virtual Edition is already running on Xen in BEA's labs, and it's just a question of certification and whether Xen can become "enterprise grade" in time.

"I'd look to certification and support against Xen by the end of the year, subject to the fact we feel comfortable with this stuff," Churchward said during a recent interview.

Certification would expand WebLogic Server Virtual Edition's platform reach, "because a lot of companies are developing and working against certification in Xen."

Those new platforms could include appliances, which have a small footprint. BEA's overall strategy for WebLogic is to make the application server modular using BEA's microServices Architecture (mSA) that will break out different elements.

The goal is for developers and users to download and install only the modules they want, such as the core application server but not the management console, to help reduce download and start-up times in system with limited resources. That's the two-year roadmap, anyway.

There's a belief at BEA that support for Xen could help lower the price of the virtual-server-based edition of its application server. Launched in July and optimized for VMware's ESX, Server WebLogic Server Virtual Edition kicks in at a typically (for BEA) meaty $13,000 per instance.

BEA hopes to adopt what it called a "utility model" with pricing based on usage rather than instance, but that could take some years to develop as a technology and a concept BEA is willing to embrace given it built a fat business charging per CPU.

Ahead of that, there is Xen, which Churchward believes has the potential power to turn virtualization into a commodity and bring WebLogic Server Virtual Edition to a broad market. "It [Xen] will change the economics for the customer... if it lives up to expectations.

"It'll create a dynamic with VMware," he added. "My personal opinion is [over time] you'll see the hypervisor coming into the chips."®

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