Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/04/03/xen_enterprise/

XenSource looks to invade Windows base

Course correction

By Ashlee Vance

Posted in Servers, 3rd April 2006 04:18 GMT

XenSource has prepped its first major charge at Microsoft Windows customers with a new package that includes the open source Xen hypervisor along with some management software.

The XenEnterprise package has gone into beta and includes the Xen 3.0 hypervisor along with the installer and management console tools that XenSource formerly sold as its Optimizer product. The software will, of course, be available to Linux customers as well as Windows users, but XenSource expects the package might appeal most to the Windows crowd.

Thus far, XenSource has been tied to Linux servers only. The inclusion, however, of virtualization hardware tools in new chips from Intel and AMD has made it possible for Xen to work with all x86 operating systems, including Microsoft's Windows line.

Most Linux customers will tap XenSource's software via the upcoming releases of SuSE Enterprise Server 10 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.0, which will have the Xen hypervisor technology built-in. Linux customers are also free to take the open source Xen package and install it as they see fit.

Microsoft customers, by contrast, won't find Xen in their Windows OSes and tend to be more reticent about cobbling together various software packages - er, especially open source ones -- for use in their businesses. It seems unlikely that too many small- to medium-sized businesses will bother with installing Xen and the XenSource management packages for use on their boxes.

That's why XenSource has shipped the XenEnterprise package.

"This Windows space requires more of a mid-market approach," said John Bara, the VP of marketing at XenSource. "The Windows folks want something to run out-of-the-box. What we are saying is, 'ten minutes to Xen.'"

Aw, that's cute.

Microsoft customers might just find the pitch rather appealing. Last week, they learned that an update to Microsoft's Virtual Server product once meant for the fourth quarter of this year won't arrive until "early 2007." That means that Microsoft customers will have to wait until next year to see the same performance gains delivered by XenSource and VMware, which have already developed code to tap into the virtualization hardware elements in chips from Intel and AMD.

XenSource has acquired a license for Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk format that will let Windows customers move their virtual operating system images from Virtual Server to Xen.

"This allows us to consume virtual machines that are created in the Virtual Server world and get them up and running on Xen," said XenSource CTO, Simon Crosby.

So, it's not hard to imagine a scenario where Microsoft customers unwilling to wait for the Virtual Server update or the follow-on virtualization product due in an update to Windows Vista Server sometime in 2008 or 2009 move to Xen to address their immediate server slicing needs.

Both XenSource and Microsoft trail x86 server virtualization leader VMware, which has been letting customers run multiple copies of both Linux and Windows on systems for years.

It may seem odd that Microsoft would afford XenSource a license to its Virtual Hard Disk format given the opening it provides for a customer defection. That said, Microsoft might prefer to see the lost souls head to XenSource instead of to bitter rival VMware, which has a tighter and more complete virtualization story at this time.

The whole XenEnterprise packages includes Xen 3.0, Xen and guest OS installers, a physical to virtual server tool and the management toolkit for keeping track of virtual machines and moving them around different servers. XenSource has 25 beta testers of the product at this time and plans to add more in the coming months.

A finished version of the product should ship in June or July. The company will release pricing at that time.

XenSource still has yet to announce a customer to the public, although it says folks are paying for its software.

The company still has intentions of building and selling more management packages around the XenEnterprise product and for the Linux crowd that receives Xen from Novell and Red Hat.

XenSource, however, is struggling a bit with this model. The XenOptimizer SE was meant to be the company's first for-profit product. But XenSource found that customers didn't want another, separate management package. So, XenSource is now trying to link its management tools into existing packages such as HP OpenView and CA Unicenter.

We've yet to receive a terribly clear picture of XenSource's management software aspirations other than the company assuring it has them.

Xen recently brought in a new CEO and let several staff go as it retools. ®