Xen: a greater threat to Microsoft than Linux?

I bet you recently have heard of Xen Source, a company that for the last month or so has been generating a lot of buzz for its open source-based virtual machine technology known as Xen. (See David Berlind's blog and Stephen Shankland's article).

I bet you recently have heard of Xen Source, a company that for the last month or so has been generating a lot of buzz for its open source-based virtual machine technology known as Xen. (See David Berlind's blog and Stephen Shankland's article).

Gartner sets high expectations for Xen in a recent report (client reg. req.)called "Cool Vendors in Emerging Trends and Technologies, 2005". The analyst firm hints at the potential disruptive force it can unleash:

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. XenSources 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. Its really cool.

However, XenSource faces many challenges. First, it must demonstrate that Xen technology can insert into target platforms without compromising performance, reliability or supportability. Second, it must ignite an 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. Third, it must deal with an inevitable assault from Microsoft: Xen is a threat to Microsoft potentially greater than that posed by Linux.

Do you agree? Does Microsoft need to chalk up another threat to its list, or is this view exaggerated?Post a talkback and let us know what you think. >

Xen, in a nutshell, is a "paravirtualization" technology available for the Linux kernel that inserts a special layer of software between the hardware and the operating system known as a hypervisor. This allows you to run multiple virtual machines on a single physical system, as do other proprietary solutions, such as VMware.


IT Jungle has a good backgrounder that points out a lesser known fact that Xen is compatible--and has beenforover a year--with the NetBSD variant of the BSD UNix platform.