The Virtualization Room

May 28 2008   10:22AM GMT

Xen: An endangered species in the virtualization ecosystem?

Kutz Profile: Akutz


While Citrix Systems’ Xen’s ubiquity may help the technology earn a legacy as the invisible hypervisor, it may also prove the most challenging next step for IT administrators and developers who want to find or develop software that leverages, supports or extends the Xen hypervisor.

To understand the problem that Xen faces, take Java as an example. Java is great, and I am committed to developing applications that are truly cross-platform using what I consider this fantastic creation. But in all the years that Java has been around, it has failed to gain traction that NET has achieved in less time. Why?

Although Java is slower, it offers a greater advantage than .NET in terms of portability; but Java still hasn’t managed to gain a majority mindshare of developers. This is because Java’s true worth is its portability, its ability to blend into any system. Java has succeeded so well at being invisible that it has lost the sexiness associated with languages used to construct desktop and Web applications. Every once in a while, something like the Google Web Toolkit comes along that makes people take a step back and re-evaluate Java’s usefulness for end-user applications. Ultimately, Java has been left to the obscurity of providing enterprise, back-end applications.

Is Xen is destined to a Java-like fate? While ultimately it may not prove difficult to develop cutting-edge technology compatible with the Xen hypervisor, it may prove so to market it. If you are in the business of selling virtualization add-on products, you want to ensure that your product is compatible with VMware Infrastructure, because that is where the sales are.

The marketplace has not been especially kind to Xen for two reasons: it was not first to market, which is an important factor for any industry, and Xen resellers do not have the power of the VMware PR machine. Also, all major virtualization vendors, including VMware, say that hypervisors should be ubiquitous — the difference is that the VMware CEO Diane Greene has been quoted on and in person. VMware shouts the same thing everyone else is casually discussing and this makes headlines.

As Xen’s legacy may be to become the ubiquitous, embedded hypervisor for all to use, its strength may also be its greatest detriment to Xen-based virtualization platforms. Xen’s strength is its practical application as the invisible, reused, resold, embedded hypervisor, but invisibility just hasn’t worked in Citrix’s favor. Instead, it shields partners from building ecosystems around Xen and has marginalized the brand name.

4  Comments on this Post

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  • Christofer Hoff
    Amen to that, Schley. I tried to point this out (from a different perspective) in my debate with Mr. Crosby, but you've done a great job with this. Here's my response: "Take heed, Citrix. I maintain your CTO is blinded by what can only be described as a denial of market realities and an undying (arrogant) allegiance to what some might consider to be an architecturally superior product on some fronts, but a lacking solution on many others. Securing the hypervisor is definitely important. However, securing both the hypervisor and the assets that sit on top of it by providing the most extensible, effective and manageable means of doing so is really what's important to customers. Sometimes, it has to be about more than where you came from. Sometimes it's about where you're going." You can read the whole post here: /Hoff
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  • oiaohm
    Xen is kinda in trouble for many reasons. Number 1 KVM and lguest in the Linux kernel. These two techs are starting to offer exactly what Xen offers without needing Xen. Next most decimating cgroups being added to the Linux kernel. 1 kernel many distributions. Note vmware living in market is going to face the same problem. Why is KVM and lguest so good for Linux no special start up needed if you wake up you need virtualisation you can just use it.
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  • Lee Kennedy
    Well, I tend to disagree being in a VMware shop myself. We have numerous VMware systems hosting dozens of servers and we are constantly going back to the well for more money to purchase more licenses from them. This is becoming very expensive! Looking at Xen as an alternative seems to make financial sense of things again as virtualization sprawl continues... Recently, I took on a new task during the beginning of a much larger project for a BI implementation and found myself looking down the barrel of Oracle and virtualization. We must hold multiple instances of DEV and PROD. How to do this you ask? Well, it seems as though the question had already been answered unbeknownst to me. It seems that Oracle has their own way of supporting their applications--Use their infrastructure! Without following this direction, one may find they will have a hard time receiving proper support from Oracle if they decide to go down the VMware route with Oracle apps loaded upon a VMware-based virtualization engine. Anyway, enough babbling about that. We installed Oracle VM 2.1.1 and it is a product which has been erected from the base code of Xen. Although it is the Xen hypervisor, the actual management and front-end of this solution is Oracle's creation--Oracle VM Manager. This is nice web-based GUI for managing the whole kit-n-kaboodle and has proven to be useful after we ironed out some issues during the installation. The point I wil make here is that Oracle is making use of Xen--Not VMware! So, since Oracle is an 800lb. gorilla in many a datacenters, you had better move over for some use of Xen because with Oracle behind it there will be quite a following before too long... Oh, and by the way, Don't forget the banannas Lee
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  • Jack Pastor
    Being first-to-market and having enormous market share is no guarantee of long-term success. Look at Lotus 1-2-3, dBaseIII, Word Perfect, and Netware. Lat time I looked Java was pretty ubiquitous and going strong. I'm not saying .net and other development platforms are not viable. Xen, KVM and VMWare are all worthwhile alternatives, and IMO, there is no real reason for any one technology to have 90% market share, especially when it is old, proprietary and expensive. Xen is relatively new in the marketplace (at least a commercial version) but it IS an open standard for the most part, and being supported by lots of players. VMware has the market share it does because of uncontested longevity alone, and not because of either superiority or value.
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