Wednesday Aug 20, 2008

Hanging out at IDF (Xen, KVM and VirtualBox, oh my!)

I'm spending the afternoon here hanging out at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF).  It's being held at the new(ish) West wing of Moscone and it's a very busy scene.

Sun has a booth here where we're showing off the latest xVM, OpenSolaris and Sun hardware technology.  Also, there were several Sun people speaking here.  Bill Franklin was speaking about OpenSolaris and I just finished up a panel on "Open Source Virtualization."  The panel was moderated by Intel, but included reps from Citrix, Oracle, RedHat and Sun.

The panel turned out to be pretty interesting, and an interesting dynamic emerged.  Simon Crosby from Citrix (the father of Xen more-or-less) spent a lot of time talking about the goodness that is the Xen open source project.  He likened it to a freely available design for a car engine that allows car manufacturers to take advantage of a common engine, but all build different cars (in this case virtualization products).  Since all four companies on the panel were using Xen in their products, it's in interesting analogy.

However, the fireworks started when RedHat put up a slide showing their view on the "evolution" of open source virtualization.

  • First Generation: UML
  • Second Generation: Xen
  • Third Generation: KVM

At this point we had an animated discussion of the relative merits of different virtualization technologies.  In some ways (flogging Simon's metaphor) this is like arguing over the relative merits of Wankle vs. piston engines.  Each has it's applications.  However, working at Sun on xVM, I'm focused on building complete cars -- not debating engine design merits.  Which engine we use is an implementation detail.  Customers usually choose cars based on performance, price and appearance -- not engine physics.  xVM Server currently uses Xen.  xVM VirtualBox uses an excellent type-2 hypervisor developed from scratch by innotek.  Each has its uses, and customers choose one of them based on their specific needs.

It'll be interesting to watch the continued debate of Xen vs. KVM.  Entertaining to be sure, but for now I'll get back to building the best virtualization and management solutions for our customers.

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Thoughts on cloud computing, virtualization and data center management from Steve Wilson, Oracle engineering VP.

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