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02.25.09

How Microsoft ‘Bought’ Xen to Remove/Reduce Choice (Is Novell Next?)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, Servers, Virtualisation, Xen at 8:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A SUFFICIENTLY LARGE HEAP of developments may have come at the beginning of this week, so here is a quick rundown through various interpretations and how things are inherently connected.

Citrix Ruins Xen for Linux

The latest announcement from Citrix is one which was covered yesterday and here is the press release from the company. There is nothing particularly shocking there.

Ignition Partners and Citrix were apparently used for their relationships with Microsoft to bring over Xen to Microsoft’s side. Having planted influence/cronies inside XenSource, Microsoft then 'bought' it using a partner [1, 2], only to hand it over back to Microsoft, over time [1, 2, 3]. The saga can be summarised as follows:

  1. Former Microsoft employees (Ignition Partners) put money in XenSource, which other companies have come to depend on as means of enabling GNU/Linux and choice
  2. At least one crony was put in charge of Xen (former Microsoft General Manager)
  3. XenSource was sold to Citrix without resistance
  4. Microsoft took Xen’s agenda from Citrix, which was crowned Microsoft Partner of the Year (2008) after buying XenSource

According to Parallels, it’s not surprising that Xen is no longer what it used to be, which leads to a cascading effect (companies dependent on Xen.org).

“I make the further prediction that Citrix will stop developing XenServer altogether since it is not needed to make XenApp work. This will signal the eventual end of XEN. You really have to applaud Microsoft’s Server group here: XEN could have been a serious competitor to them, but instead it ended up being a partner and technology provider. Now, when the difficult economic climate could have created considerable opportunities for the open source XEN offering, it is instead largely out of the picture due to its relationship with Citrix, and by extension with Microsoft.”

Novell is bound to help it too.

[Y]ou can safely bet that Novell will soon be joining up with Microsoft and Citrix to try to shove VMware out of the game with Citrix’s free XenServer.

Further, about Novell.

Particularly prior to the interoperability announcement between Red Hat and Microsoft, some bloggers were attacking Novell for moves such as improving interoperability with ASP.NET, getting the Novell/Microsoft Moonlight project included in Ubuntu Linux 9.04, and increasing its hiring of .NET developers.

It’s a case of focus shifting. Is Novell’s fate similar to that of Xen?

Novell and Maritz

Microsoft has already stirred up trouble inside VMware as well. It put its employees in charge of another virtualisation option that’s by far the market leader. This deserves or even warrants investigation by competition authorities. Now Novell is sidling with VMware as well.

Novell and VMware said Tuesday that they are collaborating so independent software vendors can build SUSE Linux Enterprise virtual appliances. The two companies will also develop VMware-ready appliances on SUSE Linux.

Red Hat Goes It Alone

The Microsoft-Red Hat agreement remains a bit of an enigma. This has been the subject of much debate recently, but it’s not known what the agreement actually meant in technical terms and whether it involved KVM or Xen (or both) on the non-Microsoft side. Sam Varghese wrote about the subject and also included a valuable quote from Samba’s lead (Samba has always been against the Novell deal).

Said Tridgell: “I certainly have no objection in principle to interoperability agreements, and I am pleased that Red Hat have gone to the trouble of pointing out that the agreement does not contain any of the patent components that are so problematic with the Novell agreement.”

“How does this impinge on Microsoft/Novell’s ‘virtualisation interoperability’ deal? What do Novell get out of it? Or what did they think they were getting out of it,” asks one reader.

“As far as I can see, Novell signed away some IP rights and agreed to get out of the desktop business in return for Microsoft collaboration in the data center. Now it seems that Microsoft has signed a similar deal with Red Hat, without signing away any patent rights, and now VM ‘partner’ Citrix is ‘giving away’ its offerings. Seems like Microsoft stole the wind right out of their sails.”

Novell is by all means the biggest loser in this case and as announced in an important press release, Red Hat has just outlined its virtualisation strategy.

Red Hat Monday introduced an entire line of virtualization software aimed at disrupting the current market and leader VMware’s position by giving customers an open-source option for virtualizing their data centers.

Red Hat unleashed another press release about its ISVs and the role of virtualisation, which it is careful not to label “cloud” or some other buzzword.

Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE:RHT), the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced its virtualization agenda and roadmap for 2009, including confirmation that its broad ecosystem of applications tested and certified to run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux are certified to run in a Red Hat virtualized platform with no modifications. Red Hat offers a broad ecosystem of certified applications, enabling expanded flexibility and choice for customers.

There is additional analysis from Sean Michael Kerner and from Timothy Prickett Morgan of IT Jungle/The Register.

Red Hat is a player in operating systems and middleware, and it wants to be a player in server virtualization – at least more of a player than it has been since it parked the Xen hypervisor inside its Enterprise Linux 5 distro back in March 2007.

This news also got the attention of Dana Blankenhorn and that of IBM’s Linux chief. SJVN argues that Red Hat demotes Xen and pushes for KVM instead.

Despite Red Hat’s surprising announcement last week that it would be partnering with Microsoft on virtualization, on February 23rd, Red Hat’s announced that it would be switching its virtualization strategy from a mix of virtualization programs, including the Microsoft-friendly Xen, to focusing on Linux’s baked-in KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine)

KVM, as Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens admitted during a press call, is still a work in progress. But, Stevens assured the audience, by working with IBM and Intel, Red Hat will be able to deliver its full Red Hat Virtualization portfolio within the next 12-months. The first fruits of this switch will appear in RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 5.4, which is due out in August 2009.

“The Microsoft-friendly Xen,” it says right there. Paula Rooney rightly opines that Red Hat has lost interest in Xen:

More importantly, Red Hat issued its war plan against Xen.

So Microsoft turned Xen from a friend of GNU/Linux almost into its foe, at least from some companies’ perspective. What a difference cash infusions can make.

Red hat woman

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6 Comments

  1. Ian said,

    February 25, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Gravatar

    Xensource, not Xen. Xen is the open source project. You’re talking about a commercial package using the Xen hypervisor.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 25, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Gravatar

    Yes, but remember who develops Xen.

  3. the11thplagueofegypt said,

    February 25, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Gravatar

    Thanks for the summary about Xen, it’s really clear.
    What I don’t understand is: how can they stop the development of an open-source program ? Can’t anyone else bring it on ?

    Or may they have the possibility to close-source it, as they own its copyright ?

  4. Ian said,

    February 25, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Gravatar

    I wouldn’t think they could close source it. It’s a GPL2 licensed product. Technically it doesn’t matter who develops it as it can be forked if there is sufficient interest and reason to be forked. In reality, if Citrix were to close the doors on the Xen open source project, chances are the project would suffer badly unless someone picks the ball up and runs with it. If someone doesn’t want to take it on, there probably wasn’t a huge amount of interest in it to begin with.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 25, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Gravatar

    Yes, Ian beat me to it.

  6. Needs Sunlight said,

    February 25, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Gravatar

    Well, Nessus was GPL also, but when the plug was pulled, it was out of circulation for over a year before being resurrected as OpenVAS.
    http://www.openvas.org/

    Xen has deteriorated badly under Citrix (which is famous for crapware anyway). MS had to take Xen out because it was the best option for running legacy systems (Windows) under virtualization. Moving Xen to Citrix was a low-profile way of putting bricks on its feet and making it suck. With development slammed to a halt and diminishing quality, people have little choice but to leave for other, now better, options.

    VirtualBox might or might not have an advantage being under Sun now, but to be sure the US Corporate environment does not in any way envigor development of any kind. So the question there is the added burden of corporate culture offset by the protection and, if we are lucky, additional resources.

    In some ways, this all might be of long term benefit as a sort of natural selection for virtualization.

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