Virtually Speaking: Turn Up the Heat

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Aug 14, 2007


Amy Newman
As VMware holds its long-awaited IPO and XenEnterprise v4 prepares to ship, it's hard to tell if the temperature is hotter on the beach or in the virtual ecosystem.

As the dog days of August make their appearance, everything seems to slow down and our minds wander to the green pastures, shiny seashores or the window on the other side of the cube.

That may be so in the real world, but in the virtual world, there's no slowing down.

First, the long-awaited VMware initial public offering (IPO) took place today. At press time, all eyes are on the New York Stock Exchange, where 33 million shares of VMware Class A common stock started out the day priced at $29 per share. At last check, a search on the new ticker symbol "VMW," revealed shares to be trading in the mid-$50s.

Where will it end up? Will it be the next Google? Before shares began trading, a wagerless pool started in the ServerWatch offices — guesses ranged from $33 to $75.

One thing is clear: By selling off 4 percent of the 10 percent made public prior to the actual IPO, VMware ensured a predictable cash infusion and made the stock an even hotter commodity.

And while we're in speculation mode ... could Dell be the next big investor in VMware? At last week's LinuxWorld in San Francisco, CTO Kevin Kettler discussed where Dell was with the virtualization initiative it outline back in April 2006. He also talked about the future, noting that Dell Labs developers are working to embed virtualization inside the box.

Not a surprising move in and of itself, but it begs a question: Who will develop this hypervisor?

Could EMC's deep hooks in both organizations be enough to glue the two companies together? Dell, as we've often said, is not an innovator. Also, unlike the other major OEMS (i.e., IBM, HP and Sun) Dell doesn't have the in-house software expertise to go it alone. A deep partnerships would benefit both parties.

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This is, of course, pure speculation, and Dell could eschew its Linux base and partner with Microsoft, or it go the open source route and partner with XenSource.

Speaking of XenSource ... in what no doubt is an attempt to steal some of VMware's thunder, on Monday XenSource released the next version of its XenEnterprise. This release takes the entire Xen franchise to the next level, John Bara, vice president of marketing for XenSource, told ServerWatch.

According to Bara, the most notable new feature in XenEnterprise v4 is XenMotion, a live migration tool that's designed to enable users to move a still-running guest virtual machine to another host server with virtually no service interruption. This capability is not unique: VMware offers similar functionality with VMotion, and Microsoft is expected to offer Live Migration in Viridian.

Other additions to version 4 include XenCenter, a new management user interface; Xen64, a native 64-bit hypervisor; XenResourcePools, which is designed to enable users to automate the addition of new computing and storage resources; and XenAPI, which provides direct access for ISVs and OEMs to develop solutions with XenEnterprise v4. XenAPI currently claims 65 ISVs and 15 distributors (breaking down to 300 VARs with 600 certified individuals within the VARs) in the program.

XenEnterprise was not the only XenSource product to get an overhaul. The feature sets of its XenExpress and XenServer siblings were also refreshed and now boast a 64-bit hypervisor, the Xen API and XenCenter (with support for only a single host).

XenSource's philosophy, according to Bara, is to move feature sets down market as new ones are introduced. Thus, with this release, XenServer — XenSource's offering aimed at small and midsize businesses and enterprise departments — will assume the price point ($495 for a one-year license, $750 for a perpetual license) and feature set (including no limit on the number of virtual machines and memory) as the previous version of XenEnterprise, Bara said.

XenExpress, which is free, remains unchanged with this release.

As for the crowning jewel that is XenEnterprise, Bara pointed out that the $1,599 price tag for a dual-socket machine for one year and $2,499 price tag for a dual-socket perpetual license is, "well below VMware on price, less than half."

Nevertheless, Bara acknowledged that the Xen universe is far from perfect. The product is deficient in high availability and dynamic resource scheduling. Steps to resolve the former were taken with the recently announced partnership with Symantec, and functionality will be incorporated into 4.1 when it's released in the fourth quarter. As for the latter, Bara said that the company "knows an offering will be needed, and it will be coming," which pretty much cements where XenSource stands in the build vs. buy ecosystem debate.

XenEnterprise is scheduled to begin shipping next Monday.

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

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