|By Jeremy Geelan||
|April 29, 2008 10:00 PM EDT||
"Virtualization is already widely used, but primarily for the first-order benefit, namely server consolidation," notes Citrix CTO Simon Crosby, in this Exclusive Q&A with SYS-CON's Virtualization Journal. "The second-order benefits of agility, availability and manageability of the IT stack are now becoming better understood," Crosby continues, "and as a consequence virtualization has moved from a tactical tool for gaining immediate savings, to become a key strategic theme for every IT department."
About Simon Crosby: Now CTO of Citrix Systems, Simon Crosby was founder and CTO of XenSource prior to the acquisition of XenSource by Citrix. Prior to XenSource, he was a principal engineer at Intel where he led strategic research in distributed autonomic computing, platform security and trust. In 2007, he was awarded a coveted spot as one of InfoWorld’s Top 25 CTOs.
- It is collaboratively built by the industry’s leading IT vendors, led by Citrix and including Intel, AMD, IBM, HP, Novell, Red Hat, Sun, VA Linux and many others.
- The Xen security architecture is contributed by the security community, including researchers, IBM’s secure hypervisor project, the NSA and DoD.
- Xen is used in the world’s largest virtualization deployments, for example by Amazon, with a deployment of thousands of servers virtualized using Xen.
- The Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor is in fact an implementation of the Xen reference architecture, built by Microsoft, and compatible with Citrix XenServer.
Virtualization Journal: What was and is the relationship between XenSource, Inc. and the Xen project?
Virtualization Journal: XenSource still hosts the xen.org site – what’s the situation there, since the Citrix acquisition? Will the community and its processes continue to be respected?
Simon Crosby: XenSource is part of Citrix – indeed XenSource is no longer a formal entity at all. Citrix hosts xen.org for the community, but it is run entirely separately from all of our product development activity. The community site at www.xen.org has its own program manager, tasked with serving the community and the Xen project Advisory Board.
The board oversees the day-to-day project management processes, and sets policies such as the trademark policy for the Xen® brand. The advisory board members come from Intel, IBM, HP, Novell, Red Hat and Sun, and the Chair is Ian Pratt, the Xen project leader, from Citrix. Citrix has already invested heavily in additional headcount on Xen, and is a sponsor of the upcoming Xen Summit, to be held in conjunction with Usenix in Boston, in June.
Virtualization Journal: If paravirtualization equals second-generation virtualization, what will third-generation virtualization look like?
Within the next year, I/O Virtualization (often called IOV) standardized by the PCI SIG will start to be supported by fabric and I/O card vendors. This allows optimized fast-path I/O between guests and hardware in a virtualization-safe manner, without needing to use the driver stack offered by the virtualization platform itself. This effectively removes most of the remaining overhead of virtualization. We recently demonstrated XenServer with a performance of about 10,000 iSCSI IOPS on a 10Gb/s IOV card from SolarFlare, for example. This means that the most challenging workloads can now be virtualized.
Virtualization Journal: How about embedded hypervisors, what’s the future trajectory there?
For customers, this is the cheapest and highest performance virtualization offering available, and it has the full benefit of complete integration with all of HP’s management tools. At the same time, Microsoft with Hyper-V in the OS, and the Linux vendors with Xen have the opportunity to leverage the same code base through a different delivery model, where the OS virtualizes more instances of that OS, or other guests. This model is still in its early stages – the Linux vendors don’t virtualize Windows well, and Microsoft Hyper-V doesn’t support Linux particularly well.
Virtualization Journal: It has inevitably been said that 2008 is, at long last, The Year of Virtualization. What do you think took everyone in Enterprise IT so long?
Crosby: Enterprise IT has not been standing still. Indeed virtualization is already widely used, but primarily for the first-order benefit, namely server consolidation. The second-order benefits of agility, availability and manageability of the IT stack are now becoming better understood, and as a consequence virtualization has moved from a tactical tool for gaining immediate savings, to become a key strategic theme for every IT department.
- Provision virtual machines – we offer dynamic provisioning on XenServer, Hyper-V, VMware and (crucially) on bare metal
- Optimize performance of virtual machines on the infrastructure through workflow based automated provisioning
- Protect virtual machines by offering them high-availability or even fault-tolerance
- Manage VM lifecycle
Virtualization Journal: The Xen AB currently has members from Citrix, IBM, Intel, HP, Novell, Red Hat and Sun – is it likely that further companies would get onto the Advisory Board?
Virtualization Journal: You’ve been hailed as one of the top 25 CTOs in the industry: what duty or duties of care do you feel such acclaim brings with it for a top software executive in the first decade of the twenty-first century? Is the ‘IT greening’ aspect of virtualization important to you, for example?
The impact of Xen in a global sense, beyond vendors and products, has been to slash the price of virtualization, making it a free feature set available to everyone. Server consolidation should be free, because it makes a powerful contribution to the greening of IT. To the Xen community goes the credit for a powerful, open, collaborative development spirit that will have a tremendous worldwide impact on power consumption and therefore global warming.
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