Virtually Speaking: Are We 'There' Yet?

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jun 26, 2007


Amy Newman
NEC's and Novell's decisions to be more Xen-like takes the hypervisor two steps closer to a higher plain.

In the opening keynote of the Gartner's IT Infrastructure, Operations & Management Summit earlier this month, research firm's Vice President & Distinguished Analyst Thomas Bittman noted that "should an ecosystem build up around Xen, they'd be serious competition for VMware. But they're not there yet."

This week and last, XenSource took two giant steps closer to its destination with major hardware and software vendors deploying its technology.

First, NEC and XenSource inked a deal whereby NEC will embed XenEnterprise into its integrated management infrastructure, SigmaSystemCenter, as the default. XenEnterprise will be transparently managed with other system resources under the NEC SigmaSystemCenter with XenEnterprise Integrated VM label.

XenSource Vice President of Marketing John Bara described the agreement as "an above the fray breakout agreement that is the most significant OEM agreement [for XenSource] to date."

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It's even more significant that NEC chose Xen because it's the OEM's first virtualization agreement to involve changes and integration on both sides, and it is thus spawning a deeper relationship than NEC has with other virtualization vendors, Bara noted.

Nima Homayoun, director of business development at XenSource, said that NEC selected Xen for its "size and scalability as well as its open source nature." It is also well-suited for diskless systems.

In addition to embedding XenEnterprise, NEC and XenSource also agreed to jointly develop virtualization products for NEC's Integrated VM vision, study and develop enhancements for XenEnterprise, integrate XenEnterprise with NEC software and hardware solutions, and deliver an NEC-packaged version of XenSource.

The two companies will also participate in joint marketing activities. A cobranded logo of "includes Xen" will be available with the offering.

NEC may have a relatively small presence in North America, but it is a market leader in Japan and Asia-Pacifc. Japan is also the second-biggest stronghold for XenExpress (Germany being No. 1), Bara said.

The synergy is clear.

Bara said NEC and XenSource will work together to "harvest the pipleine." The expectation is that product volume patterns will follow NEC's market presence.

NEC will begin shipping its version of XenEnterprise in August 2007; the NEC SigmaSystemCenter with XenEnterprise embedded as an Integrated VM capability is expected to ship in December 2007, Nima said.

Meanwhile, on this side of the Pacific, Novell last week began shipping service pack 1 (SP1) for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 (SLES 10). Included among the enhancements is the commercial availability of the SLES Virtual Machine Driver Pack, which is basically a bundle of paravirtualized network, bus and block device drivers to enable unmodified Windows and Linux guest operating systems to run near natively in Xen environments on SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 and Intel Virtualization Technology and AMD Virtualization hardware.

With the release of the SLES Virtual Machine Driver Pack, Novell is laying claim to being the first vendor to offer a supported solution for Xen virtual machine guests.

Other SLES 10 SP1 enhancements include updated high-availability storage infrastructure and support for new processor technologies, including Quad-Core Intel Xeon and Quad-Core AMD Opteron processors. Security features have been bolstered, audit subsystems enriched, and support for Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 has been added.

The Virtual Machine Driver Pack includes drivers for Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows 2003. It is expected to ship in July. Drivers for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and 5 are scheduled to be released later in the summer. They will be added to the driver pack at no additional charge via a maintenance update.

A one-year subscription to the Virtual Machine Driver Pack is priced at $299 per physical server for up to four virtual machines or $699 per physical server for unlimited virtual machines.

Xen drivers for SLES have been shipping as part of SLES since it was released last summer.

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

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