Xen masters take aim at VMware
Virtual Iron and XenSource offerings lack power and polish of the virtualization leader, but they're gaining fastFollow @pvenezia
Virtual Iron Enterprise 3.7.1 is a very capable, cross-platform virtualization solution. The VM support is limited when compared to VMware, but all virtualization packages are limited when compared to VMware. The cost structure of Virtual Iron is very compelling, and the company is building rapidly on a solid foundation. The extraordinary rate at which Virtual Iron releases updates and new features indicates a true desire to deliver a viable alternative to VMware at a significantly reduced cost.
XenSource is tasked with all things Xen -- from working with the open source community to building commercial offerings on the open source hypervisor. XenEnterprise 3.2 is the latest iteration of XenSource's high-end offering, and like Virtual Iron Enterprise, it's come a long way in a short time.
Unlike Virtual Iron Enterprise, XenEnterprise servers are built one by one. No management network is required, and each server carries a XenEnterprise installation on local disk. Each server exists as an autonomous system, with no communication required or even possible between nodes. Although XenEnterprise does technically support iSCSI SANs, that support is very immature, requiring significant back-end configuration. More important, no form of shared, centralized storage is supported. Thus, features such as VM migrations, automated capacity adjustments, and even centralized management aren't possible. XenSource is certainly addressing these issues; the company plans to release a more robust version of XenEnterprise sometime in 2007.
The version that I've been working with performed well in the lab, given the noted limitations, and I found it to be a capable solution. It's a good choice for a small virtualization project.
Installation is very straightforward, proceeding much like any Red Hat-based Linux install. During installation the detected disk and network devices are configured and prepared, with the bulk of the local storage reserved for virtual servers. The secondary CD containing support for various Linux distributions can be installed during this initial build or done manually after the base installation. Once installed, the server boots to a text console log-in screen with the server's configured IP addresses listed for reference.
After the server is built, the management tools must be installed on a separate workstation. These tools are Java-based, available for Windows and Linux. Installation on a Windows XP system and a Fedora Core 6 x86_64 workstation proved simple, as was connecting to the newly built XenEnterprise host. When firing up the management tool for the first time, the admin is prompted to enter a master password. In this fashion, the same management console can be used to control multiple XenEnterprise servers without requiring separate authentication each time a different server is accessed.