Linux virtualization heats up

With Xen on the scene, server virtualization takes on new flavor.

For a long time, VMware was the only server-virtualization game in town. Although Microsoft, with its purchase of Connectix, provides some competition, no one expects it to erode VMware's market share anytime soon.

But open source options are now at the ready, with tools based on Xen, the Linux-based server virtualization software, coming to market. Starting this quarter, Red Hat is shipping Red Hat 5.0 with Xen for Linux server virtualization, and Novell has announced plans to include Xen in the next release of its operating system.

Four trendy Linux developments

The two operating-system vendors join start-ups XenSource, which has offered its Xen-based hypervisor for a while, and Virtual Iron, which entered the market last month with its Xen-based hypervisor.

Some controversy is brewing between the approach of the operating-system vendors, which are integrating Xen within the operating system, and the start-ups, which are offering separate hypervisors, in much the same way as VMware runs separately from the Microsoft operating system.

While arguments can be made for both approaches, experts say the upshot is that the new competition spells good news for enterprise users. "Things like Virtual Iron and XenSource definitely help," says Andreas Antonopoulos, senior vice president of Nemertes Research. "You need the underdogs to keep the big dog in check."

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