XenSource's first product due next week

Start-up's XenSource Enterprise is designed to put a pretty face on open-source virtualization.

Stephen Shankland
Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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3 min read
SAN FRANCISCO--Virtualization start-up XenSource next week will begin selling its first product, XenEnterprise, Chief Executive Peter Levine said Thursday.

"It's going to be generally available next week," Levine said in a speech here at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo. The major goal of the software is to make the Xen open-source virtualization software easy to use, an idea reflected in the company's "10 minutes to Xen" tagline.

XenEnterprise is a direct competitor to EMC's VMware software, which pioneered the virtualization marketplace and dominates the x86 server market today. Virtualization software lets multiple "virtual machines" fit on the same computer so several largely idle computers with only one operating system each can be replaced with a single, efficiently used one with several operating systems.


About 6 percent of servers today use virtualization software, according to a February study Levine cited. With XenEnterprise, "we have made the consumption and pricing of this to be really available for the other 94 percent," Levine said.

Levine said the software is easy to use. At the company's July 4 party, having consumed two beers, he declared that he wanted to try installing and running the software with no help, he said. "While slightly under the influence, with no manual, I got through the installation and instantiated a couple guests (operating systems) in about 15 minutes," Levine said. "It really is quite easy."

Xen grew up alongside Linux, which has been modified or "enlightened" to take advantage of virtualization. XenEnterprise also will be able to run Windows. Running unmodified operating systems is a specialty of VMware's software today, but new server processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices have features that permit them to run on Xen as well.

Levine was named XenSource's new CEO in February, taking the company in a different direction. Initially, the start-up had planned to sell management tools to administer a computing environment using Xen virtual machines.

But now the company is leaving that area to other software companies, Levine said in his speech. "We have no management tools agenda. As a platform company, we ought to be encouraging (software companies) to work on top of our infrastructure," he said.

A standalone version of Xen isn't going to be the way many customers encounter the software. In August, Novell began shipping Xen in Suse Linux Enterprise Server 10, and top Linux seller Red Hat will follow suit with its Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, expected to ship at the end of the year.

But XenSource expects to benefit even when it's not directly selling the Xen software. The company launched a certification and interoperability initiative this month to let partners use the Xen brand to indicate to customers that the software will work as expected, Levine said.

"In order for this stuff to take off and be ubiquitous, there needs to be a certainty that when something is called Xen, it really is Xen, so people are certain it does what is supposed to do and contains the components Xen is supposed to have," Levine said. "In the open-source world, that can get a little tricky."

And later, the company plans to sell more software called "extension packs" that will let other operating systems do more with Xen, Levine said. "We will build extension packs to extend Xen in Red Hat, Novell and Solaris," he said.

XenSource Chief Technology Officer Simon Crosby said two ideas for extension packs include storage virtualization to help virtual machines connect to storage systems, and high availability to help computer fire up a replacement virtual machine if another crashes.