When it comes to virtualization in the enterprise, VMware is obviously king. But up in the cloud, most providers of cloud computing services are relying on the open source Xen hypervisor. As enterprise IT organizations contemplate the implication of hybrid cloud computing and the need to build their own private clouds, the folks at Xen.org are betting that the Xen hypervisor is about to become a whole lot more popular with traditional enterprise IT shops.
According to Ian Pratt, founder of Xen.org, there are two primary trends coming together in favor of Xen. The first is that as IT organizations investigate hybrid cloud computing, they are gaining more exposure to Xen. In fact, rather than try to manage application workloads across disparate hypervisors, many will opt to adopt Xen internally in order to make integration with public cloud service providers as seamless as possible.
The second trend is that private cloud computing needs a hypervisor that is optimized for the cloud, rather than a hypervisor that was originally designed to facilitate server consolidation. Pratt says that Xen from the ground up was built at the University of Cambridge with security and application workload isolation concerns in mind, which is why he says Xen is the optimal hypervisor for cloud computing deployments.
Most recently, Xen.org released version 4.1 of the Xen hypervisor, which adds among other things a Prototype credit2 scheduler designed for latency-sensitive workloads and very large systems, CPU Pools for advanced partitioning, support for large systems with greater than 255 processors and 1GB/2MB super page support, support for x86 Advanced Vector eXtension (AVX), and a new Memory Access API enabling integration with third-party security solutions.
Obviously, both VMware and Microsoft have ambitions in the cloud. But given the open source economics of Xen along with availability of an open source OpenStack management platform on top of it, convincing cloud computing providers to back away from Xen as their primary hypervisor platform is a tall order. And Pratt says he's pretty confident that a lot of internal IT organizations will soon come to the same conclusion.