The Virtualization Room

Apr 30 2010   5:46PM GMT

Xen vs. KVM: The battle lines are drawn

Colin Steele Colin Steele Profile: Colin Steele

In case you missed it, News Director Alex Barrett has a very interesting story up on our sister site It’s about the Linux community and what she calls its “mass exodus” from Xen to KVM virtualization.

The Xen vs. KVM debate is not new, but it has definitely been picking up steam as of late. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 has given Xen the “let’s just be friends” speech and moved in with KVM. Several major hosting providers are switching their platforms from Xen to KVM. And many Linux diehards say Xen is a huge pain to manage.

The battle lines are drawn, and the fate of the open source virtualization market hangs in the balance. (How’s that for overdramatic? I think I’ve been watching too many “Lost” commercials.)

Anyway, the ramifications of this potential shift may also affect the open source OS market. Leading the charge on this side of the battle is Citrix CTO Simon Crosby, the co-founder of XenSource. Red Hat is trying to move customers off Xen, and now he’s trying to move customers off Red Hat.

“If you approach your virtualized world with a Linux/RHEL based mindset, then I recommend you consider switching to Oracle Enterprise Linux,” he blogged last week. “It is a superior, enterprise class version of RHEL. … Alternatively, if you’re wary of giving Larry more control than he already has over your environment, Novell SUSE Linux offers a superb enterprise Linux platform.” (Note that Crosby linked Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s name to a picture of his massive yacht.)

I’ve previously said that Red Hat has nothing to lose by switching from Xen to KVM. I meant that in terms of Red Hat’s standing in the virtualization market. VMware, Microsoft and Citrix are way ahead of Red Hat there. (And as Crosby blogged, “Having failed to capitalize on Xen, Red Hat needs a ‘differentiated’ story in virtualization in order to regain credibility.”)

But Red Hat has a ton to lose in the enterprise Linux server OS market, where it’s the leader. Sure, the Linux community may be in love with KVM, but Red Hat butters its bread thanks to the IT admins and systems engineers who work with RHEL. The company can’t afford to turn off these core customers in its pursuit of the virtualization market.

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