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March 26, 2005

Xen and the art of causing MS-heartburn

Not easily to give into all the projections of MS-killer  and death of all proprietary software.  I am skeptical of any general statements about the potential or consequences of open source software. As always reality is buried in the details and segments.   Software world is a complex system and like any complex system it has evolving equilibrium points.  Between those equilibrium points one sees many game-changing possibilities.

One such possibility relates to the business goal of server  consolidation and scaling. That's where this open source virtualization software comes in - Xen. You will hear a lot about this.  This is what it does (via Zdnet - Gartner ) :

In March 2005, Intel announced the introduction of its Vanderpool hardware virtualization technology. This technology gives Xen the ability to support any operating system. Xen is small, with only 50,000 lines of code. This simplicity and its open-source license bode well for security and stability. Its availability will drive innovation across computing platforms. The product could become as common as the PC BIOS is today. XenSource s goal is to provide services and support to help companies implement Xen-based systems. The ubiquity of Xen drives this business model, so the open-source zero-revenue model becomes a benefit rather than a cost. XenSource has backing and support form Intel; IBM; HP, AMD and others

Same Gartner report mentions three  challenges this technology has to solve before its widely adopted -

  • technology can insert into target platforms without compromising performance, reliability or supportability
  • ecosystem of technology providers that plug into the Xen environment, enhancing platforms without changing one bit of the system image that runs in the platform partitions
  • Challenge from Microsoft.

Precisely to solve these challenges Xensource (commercial arm of the Xen creators) has managed to get Kleiner Perkins and Sevin Rosen on board.  In the mid-to-long term VMWare (and now EMC) should worry about this. In the short term this alone will expand the market for virtualization and may spawn new set of system level applications.   More stories on Xen is available here , here,   and download from here.

On a lighter note, staying on top of the open source buzz is like waiting for some shoe to drop. Which is happening one every day (or week depending on what you are counting - libraries or packages).

Probably both proprietary and open source world is working towards some equilibrium. How long it will take to reach there is anybody's guess.

March 26, 2005 in Open source | Permalink


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