Xen.org, the open source community behind the leading IaaS cloud computing hypervisor finally made a bold move today by stepping up to the plate of delivering a complete open source virtual infrastructure for cloud platforms. Prior to this release, Xen.org had been content to manage and maintain the core Xen hypervisor and let its partners all build solutions around it. The problem with this approach was that while the hypervisor itself was compatible between these solutions the infrastructure and how you managed it were not. Compatibility at these higher layers is what is necessary for the Xen community to attract an ecosystem of ISVs and end customers – no one wants to have to tune their software for each and every Xen variant. Now Xen.org is delivering a complete product that IaaS clouds can more easily deploy, Linux distributions can deliver and that end customers can install knowing that storage, deployment, monitoring, reporting, policy-based automation and most other management tasks are consistently executed. This also makes Xen plus Eucalyptus a more complete cloud-in-a-box, open source solution.
Xen.org even went so far as to make the official Linux kernel the domain 0 for this solution, addressing a contentious point that rival hypervisor KVM had raised as its differentiator. Xen.org vendor partners can still choose to leverage just the hypervisor for integration with their own infrastructure and OS kernel technologies (as Sun has done with xVM) but there will be diminishing value in doing so with products aimed at the mainstream market, as compatibility will be broken at these higher levels. Oracle is one worth watching as its OracleVM uses Xen plus Oracle Unbreakable Linux, which is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux server. Red Hat is unlikely to add the full Xen infrastructure as it has shifted to KVM as its strategic hypervisor. Could this be the opening Oracle has been waiting for to break away from Red Hat with its Linux (Is Unbreakable SuSE on the horizon)?
Clearly this move benefits Citrix’ aims as well. The company carrying the Xen.org flag will be contributing all its cloud-relevant technologies to this open source project including its StorageLink, virtual switch, virtual appliance, and VMware-to-Xen VM conversion (Project Kensho) technologies. Many early IaaS cloud leaders have their own solutions in these areas but are likely to welcome this IP so they don’t have to maintain their unique solutions long term/
Hopefully with this move the days of cloud incompatibility, at least between Xen-based clouds, will come to an end just a bit sooner.