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XenSource Begins Shipping XenEnterprise Hypervisor

Quoting from IT Jungle

XenSource, the commercial operation that is spearheading the development of the open source Xen virtual machine hypervisor, announced late last week that the commercial-grade XenEnterprise product set was available for purchase. XenEnterprise is a variant of the Xen hypervisor that has tools that allow companies to manage virtual machines running on a mix of Linux and Windows servers. It is also the main vehicle through which XenSource hopes to make its money.

XenEnterprise is distinct from the variants of the Xen hypervisor that have been bundled with Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 variants for servers and desktops, the hypervisor is being embedded in the future Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, and will be embedded in the future Microsoft Longhorn Server kicker to the current Windows Server 2003. These two Linux platforms have or will have Xen integrated into their operating systems, and Novell and Red Hat will respectively support that hypervisor under their own support contracts. XenSource provides level three tech support, if customers need it. XenEnterprise is for much more sophisticated uses of the Xen hypervisor, and XenSource thinks it can make a living by offering cross-platform support and sophisticated management products. This is a fair bit of reasoning, since everyone else in the IT industry, including EMC's VMware subsidiary, thinks that the hypervisor will itself rapidly become a commodity. Tech support and tools to manage virtual machines are where the money is.

XenEnterprise makes use of the VT features of Intel's Core chips (including Xeon variants for servers), as well as the high-end Itanium processors. The software can also make use of the AMD-V (formerly AVT) features that have been woven into the new "Santa Rosa" Rev F Opteron chips. VT and AMD-V provide hardware-level support for instruction set virtualization. And XenEnterprise was timed to be released with the machines that have VT or AMD-V features. XenEnterprise includes tools to convert physical server instances into virtual machine instances, as well as the Mutli-Host Xen Management interface for monitoring and tweaking the performance and other characteristics of guest operating systems on Windows and Linux servers.

The XenEnterprise 3.0 software released last week can support Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 3 Update 6 or Enterprise Linux 4 Update 1 as a guest operating system; Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise 9 with Service Pack 2 is also supported. Somewhat mysteriously, SUSE Linux Enterprise Sever 10 is not yet supported by XenSource itself, even though Novell is supporting Xen internally in that very software. XenSource says that during the fourth quarter it will put out support for other Linux releases as well as for various Windows platforms as guests within XenEnterprise.

If people were expecting XenSource to undercut VMware heavily on price when it comes to its virtualization tools, their expectations will probably be met. XenSource is charging a very reasonable price for its software. Companies can buy a perpetual license with annual maintenance, or they can buy an annual subscription. Like VMware, XenSource is agnostic about how many cores are in a processor--at least for now, during the dual-core X64 generation we have just entered within the past year. (Quad-core chips might be a different story entirely, when they get here later this year and early next.)

For a single server with two processor sockets, XenSource wants $750 for a XenEnterprise license, plus $150 per year for maintenance. If you want to buy it on an annual subscription basis, you can get it for $488 on that machine. As you double the number of processor sockets in the machine, the price doubles. So on a 32-socket box, the license costs $12,000 and annual maintenance costs $2,400; an annual subscription, if you want to go that route, costs $7,800 on such a machine. If you buy a five-pack of licenses or subscriptions, XenSource chops the price by 15 percent, and if you buy a 10-pack, you get a 20 percent volume discount. (Maintenance prices are not discounted.) The way the pricing works, if you plan to use the software for more than two years, it is cheaper to buy the perpetual license and a support contract. But, the initial cash outlay for the annual subscription is low, and a lot of companies will find an annual subscription to XenEnterprise an attractive way to budget.

Those potential customers who could find XenEnterprise particularly interesting just might be the many companies that are looking to spend big bucks on VMware's Infrastructure 3 virtual machine hypervisor and related system management tools.

Rather than pricing based on features, XenSource is adding all of the features it has for XenEnterprise and charging based on scalability. VMware charges depends on the features you want, and then charges as you scale across two-socket increments within a server. VMware is the volume leader in server virtualization, so it can command a premium--at least for a while. VMWare's base commercial product is called Infrastructure Starter 3, which includes the ESX Server 3 hypervisor and the VirtualCenter 2 management console; it costs $1,000 for a two-socket server. Companies that want to use NAS and SAN disk storage and create virtual machines that span multiple cores have to buy Infrastructure Standard, which includes ESX Server 3, VirtualCenter 2, VirtualSMP, and VMFS 3 (VMware's virtual file system). The Infrastructure Standard stack costs $3,750 for a two-socket machine. The full-tilt-boogie VMware stack is called Infrastructure Enterprise, and that adds VMotion virtual machine teleportation, a distributed resource scheduler, and VMware HA and Consolidated Backup, which respectively restart failed VMs and archive them to tape for safekeeping. This bundle costs $5,750 for a two-socket server.

XenEnterprise is obviously a lot less expensive than VMware's Infrastructure stacks. The questions a lot of people will be trying to answer are: How ready is XenEnterprise for real-world deployments and how good are its management tools? The market will begin figuring that out now.

Read the original article, here.

Published Tuesday, September 12, 2006 7:05 AM by David Marshall
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