Volume 4, Number 13 -- April 4, 2007

XenSource Extends and Improves Windows Support with 3.2 Release

Published: April 4, 2007

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

XenSource, the company that provides products and support for the open source Xen virtualization hypervisor that its founders created, Monday announced XenEnterprise 3.2, a new release that offers expanded support for virtualized Windows environments.

XenEnterprise is the commercial product from XenSource, which was announced a year ago and rolled out in the summer. With the initial product roll out, XenSource decided to partner with the two big commercial Linux distributors, Red Hat and Novell and get them to embed the Xen hypervisor in their products; XenSource gets a cut of the action for allowing the distros to do this (but is not saying how much). Similarly, XenSource is working with Microsoft to ensure that the future Viridian hypervisor for Longhorn Server (the server implementation of Windows Vista) will be compatible and interoperable with the Xen hypervisor. But plenty of shops have a mixed environment, and that is where the XenEnterprise product, which is only available from XenSource itself (and maybe a few resellers down the line), comes in. XenEnterprise can support either Windows or Linux, but it is aimed--at least officially--at mixed environments. The product has been supporting Windows since December 2006.

With XenEnterprise 3.2, the Xen hypervisor is gaining official support for partitions to run Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server; up until now, only Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition and Windows XP (mainly for developers) were supported. According to Simon Crosby, vice president of strategy and corporate development at XenSource, with the 3.2 release a Xen partition can now span up to eight processor cores in a SMP configuration, which is twice the SMP scalability of the ESX Server 3 hypervisor from VMware. This SMP support is only available for Windows Server 2003, however. The Xen hypervisor has been tweaked to span up to 8 GB of main memory per partition and has a new driver for network adapters, which have been sluggish on earlier Xen implementations.

XenEnterprise 3.2 requires processors with hardware-assisted virtualization--Intel's VT or Advanced Micro Devices' AMD-V features--to run Windows. Software with modified kernels can run inside Xen hypervisor partitions without these hardware features, or unmodified Linux can run atop Xen on hardware that has them.

XenEnterprise 3.2 also includes support for iSCSI storage, which is the cheaper alternative to the already supported Fibre Channel SAN arrays that are already supported in earlier releases. VMware and Virtual Iron, which has embedded the Xen hypervisor in its own virtualization product, support iSCSI and Fibre Channel SANs already. The software has also been updated to provide VLAN virtual bridging, which is used to shape IP traffic to partitions.

While the open source Xen hypervisor supports 64-bit guest operating systems, this support is not yet available in XenEnterprise. Support for 64-bit operating systems as well as the LiveMigration feature, which will allow running partitions to move between physical machines that are plugged into the same iSCSI or SAN arrays, is coming with the future "Rio" release of XenEnterprise, due in June, according to John Bara, vice president of marketing at XenSource. VMware Infrastructure 3 supports such migration already through its VMotion feature.

XenEnterprise 3.2 costs $488 per two-socket server (regardless of cores) for a one-year subscription, and costs $750 for a perpetual license on a two-socket machine.


VMware, XenSource Launch Virtualization Bundles

XenSource, Virtual Iron Gun for VMware with Features, Low Prices

VMware, XenSource Push Out Beta Virtualization Products

Microsoft Taps Xen to Help Build Longhorn's Hypervisor

XenSource Shifts Gears as It Rolls Out XenEnterprise Virtualization

Virtual Iron Standardizes on Xen, Goes Open Source

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Editor: Alex Woodie
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
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