Xen Delivers on Open Source Enlightenment

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Oct 14, 2008


It's not surprising that Xen would chose a word synonymous with enlightenment for its open source portability standard. Xen describes Project Kensho as providing a powerful, multi-hypervisor toolkit designed to leverage the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) Open Virtualization Format (OVF) to enable ISVs and enterprises to more easily create hypervisor-independent, portable enterprise application workloads. Virtually Speaking: Xen's Project Kensho is up and running. Will it result in good karma?

If that reads more like gibberish than enlightenment, consider this: Back in July, Xen announced technology that will attempt to bridge the gaps between XenServer, Hyper-V and ESX environments. The open source technology aims to enable virtualized application workloads to be packaged as a secure, portable, pre-configured open standard virtual appliances that can be imported and run on any of those platforms and others.

"It is designed to decouple the [development] bottleneck," Simon Crosby, CTO of the virtualization and management division at Citrix Systems, told ServerWatch.

On Tuesday, Citrix Systems released a technology preview of Project Kensho as open source software under the Lesser General Public License (LGPL). It is available as a free download on the Citrix Developer Network.

Citrix is also working with rPath, a virtual appliance packaging vendor, to extend Project Kensho. This will allow users to seamlessly install and deploy DMTF OVF packages on popular infrastructure clouds, such as Amazon EC2.

Cloud is but one use case for Kensho, Crosby said.

Crosby anticipates Kensho will come into play in virtual machines ISVs distribute to customers as appliances, as well as within general-purpose templating tools within enterprises. He anticipates ISVs and Citrix customers will be the primary users.

ISVs, he explained, don't want to be producing products for multiple virtual environments.

Obviously, Crosby would like them to design products first and foremost for Xen, but as VMware is far and away the market leader (though Crosby said XenServer is a "great product that is selling briskly"), a shortcut to VMware users is quite handy — specially one that buys into VMware's own standard.

Crosby is also realistic. "Because we are followers, interoperability is key," he said. Thus, an alliance with Microsoft and involving VMware in DMTF and OVF certification.

But make no mistake about it, a primary driver of the Microsoft-Xen alliance is to "not let VMware get too far ahead in the proprietary lock in," Crosby said.

With Kensho, ISVs can to grab and design for all environments simultaneously. At a minimum, this is a win for ISVs and ultimately the enterprises that buy their products.

The stakes in the virtualization game grow ever higher. The hypervisor has already gone commodity. If Kensho were to take hold, and that admittedly is still a long shot, it would change the game even further. With developers able to write to all environments simultaneously and users able to swim from one virtual ocean to another, the Big Three (as well as perhaps Sun, Oracle and others entering the fray), would be in fairly equal depths.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001.

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