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Work underway to keep Xen support in Fedora 13

Xen.org says it isn't abandoing Fedora users, but doesn't have a lot of specifics to offer yet.

On Monday, Fedora 13 was released and it was chock full of features to appeal to the enterprise. Fedora 13 is Red Hat's FOSS Linux distribution. One of the ballyhooed improvements to 13 is virtualization, meaning KVM (and only KVM) these days for Red Hat.

But there's good news/bad news for those of you who love Fedora, but prefer Xen as your hypervisor. Bad news: Xen was dropped from Fedora a few releases ago, says a Red Hat spokesperson and it hasn't come back in 13. Good news: But Fedora 13 still supports Xen guests and, better still, Xen.org hasn't abandoned you.

While the details are sketchy, a Red Hat spokesperson told me:

Fedora logo
"We still support Xen guests, but we dropped the original hypervisor kernels several releases ago. There is experimental support for the newer Xen hypervisor under evaluation, but it's not part of Fedora 13 at this time."

And Ian Pratt, founder and chairman of Xen.org told me:

"Fedora 13 is still supported as a guest on Xen and work is underway in Xen.org to add platform support to Fedora 13 post-release for anyone wishing to leverage Fedora 13 as their production platform."

As for KVM, Red Hat is, of course, a major contributor to Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM), a project the company committed to when it purchased KVM's pioneer Qumranet in 2008. Red Hat's commercial version, RHEL 6.0, was the first RHEL version to have dropped support for the Xen hypervisor.

The KVM vs. Xen battle is brewing between Red Hat and Citrix. Citrix is similarly the lead developer of Xen and offers the commercial version XenServer.

KVM is part of the Linux kernel and Xen is not, admits Citrix CTO and longtime Xen proponent Simon Crosby, but Crosby also claimed that Xen was more mature. "KVM is just an ability to virtualize the CPU and memory," Crosby said. "It doesn't do networking or storage. It's the rest of the infrastructure that you build around it that turns it into something more useful."

Between the improvements made for RHEL 6.0 and Fedora 13, Red Hat wholeheartedly disagrees with its competitor's assessment. Red Hat's press release spells it out:

"Fedora 13 adds support for stable PCI addresses, enabling virtual guests to retain PCI addresses' space on a host machine and expanding opportunities for large-scale automation of virtualization. New shared network interface technology enables virtual machines to use the same physical network interface cards as the host operating system. Fedora 13 also features improvements in performance for KVM networking and large multi-processor systems. These features offer savvy technologists the opportunity to experience virtualization innovations before they are seen in later releases of Red Hat Enterprise Linux."

(I previously offered a fuller list of the new virtualization features when, last month, I wrote about the beta: Fedora 13 beta released with many goodies for the enterprise)

While this blog post isn't offering a comprehensive list of all the other changes in Fedora 13, the couple of new items that caught my eye include new file system management options for admins. Fedora adds support for filesystem snapshots. The company says, "Plugin support for snapshots allows administrators to experiment with software updates and more easily revert the system as needed. As in previous releases, advanced users can enable experimental Btrfs support in the installation process to try out this next-generation file system."

For desktop users, Fedora will automatically offers driver installation when the user plugs in a printer and can now offers drivers that can handle the 3D from Nvidia graphics cards for a better gaming experience.

Download Fedora 13 here, if you so choose.

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