VMware, Xen Heat Up the Cloud

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted May 27, 2009


Last Thursday, VMware not only released its first-quarter results, it also released vSphere 4 -- a mere month after it was first announced. Is VMware racing to stay ahead of the pack and hold fast to its market? Virtually Speaking: VMware arrives in the cloud with vSphere, only to find Xen already there. Citrix's Simon Crosby weighs in on why the power of Xen should not be underestimated.

It's not, after all, the first to the cloud, as Citrix CTO Simon Crosby was quick to point out in a conversation with ServerWatch in response to last week's Virtually Speaking, in which we pondered the fate of the top three virtualization environments.

Crosby was explained that despite Xen's recent emphasis of the desktop, "XenServer as platform underscores what we do." The nature of Citrix's business, however, has made the desktop more prominent.

Xen's market share within the enterprise is quite respectable. Currently, it claims a 17 percent to 20 percent presence in data center virtualization deployments, Crosby said.

When it comes to cloud computing, however, Xen's market share is closer to 100 percent. With cloud becoming increasingly relevant, Crosby said he believes Xen is now in a position to show its caliber and really shine.

Crosby admits, however, that cloud numbers aren't always so easy to decipher, and, to date, none of the data addresses cloud activity. Cloud providers generally don't talk to the industry, so it's not always clear what's running where.

Crosby said he believes that will have to change at some point, and preliminary discussions around compliance and standardized notions are already under way. It's too early to know what it means or to write down the standards, but at some point that will need to occur.

In the meantime, cloud is changing things. A lot. As VMware expands its environment from the data center to the cloud, it presents an opportunity for other vendors to change the dynamic.

So how does Crosby see the future playing out? When it comes to Xen, Crosby said "the objective is to be the number two virtualization player, as opposed to being an OS."

Meanwhile, "VMware's dominance will continue, not because its feature set is better than anyone else's, but because no one else has had a chance to go in there. That apple cart is getting the point where it will be getting upset. I see signs of that."

The apple cart may turn out to be the cloud itself. Crosby cites three potential issues with VMware's cloud strategy:

  • vSphere assumes both the data center and external cloud are using VMware
  • vSphere is not appropriately priced for cloud
  • ESX has not yet been applied in the cloud, so no one knows if it is secure enough

It is, of course, entirely possible that none of these things will come to pass or have a significant impact. If cloud-related statistics continue to be kept as secret as they are today, it will be irrelevant.

So perhaps the virtual landscape, circa 2015 will consist of Xen owning the cloud, VMware dominating in the date center, and Hyper-V finding a sweet spot within SMB data centers and MSPs' and small hosters' clouds.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is coauthoring a book about virtualization that is scheduled for publication in October 2009.

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