The Xen of virtualisation

Although it will be a few years before virtualisation is standard on either corporate or personal computer systems, you can expect to heart plenty about it in the coming months.

The most widely discussed aspect is likely to be Xen (pronounced ‘zen,’) a project to develop open-source virtualisation software.

The ongoing effort involves many of the IT industry’s biggest players, including HP and many of its competitors.

“We’ve been long-time contributors to Xen,” said Tom Christian, an HP Labs scientist based in Fort Collins, CO. “In fact, HP was the first major company to start working with that platform.”

IBM, AMD, Sun and Intel are among the other vendors working on the Xen initiative, which some compare to development of the Linux open-source operating system.

Even market leader VMware, which has for years sold products based on its own virtualisation technology, is participating in the Xen project to support development of common interfaces to virtualisation services.

Xen isn’t quite ready yet. Beta testing is underway, and researchers are resolving performance problems and fixing bugs.

“Customers can get it and start playing with it to get a feel for how it works, but it’s not for mission-critical applications yet,” said Xen contributor John Janakiraman, a Palo Alto-based HP Labs researcher.

But he added that “more mature” releases of Xen should be available in the second half of this year, with enhancements in the work coming further down the road.