Citrix-XenSource deal could upset open-source developers

Citrix Systems' £250m acquisition of XenSource last week, along with VMware's massively successful IPO earlier this week, has further legitimised the hot virtualisation space, but it may also be causing some disillusionment among the open-source community.

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Citrix Systems' £250m acquisition of XenSource, last week along with VMware's massively successful IPO earlier this week, has further legitimised the hot virtualisation space, but it may also be causing some disillusionment among the open-source community.

XenSource commercialises the open-source Xen virtualisation software, a free virtual machine monitor. It can be delivered as a virtualisation platform, as found in the XenEnterprise product, or embedded in a host operating system, such as Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise 10 or Red Hat's RHEL 5/Fedora 7.

Gartner analyst George Weiss said that XenSource chief Peter Levine has to make a concerted effort in order to retain the loyalty of the open-source Xen developers. Otherwise, he said, the open-source community may look at the future of the Xen project destiny with too much uncertainty to continue supporting it.

"The possible downside here is the open-source community might see that technology being co-opted by a larger conglomerate of proprietary company that may use the open source as a vehicle toward the financial gains and monetary rewards of this Citrix-XenSource company," Weiss said.

Weiss said that the move could even cause companies such as Red Hat and Novell toward alternative technologies, such as Qumranet's Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM), a Linux kernel infrastructure for supporting virtualisation.

"KVM now appears to be the only unaffiliated project for virtualisation that isn't beholden to any commercial organisation," Weiss said. "KVM is not dependant on anybody other than its own developers, and that's the way XenSource would like Xen to appear. But if there's any further gains by KVM, organisations will start to look to it as an alternative."

Weiss said that both Citrix and XenSource have to continue to invite community participation and rewards to maintain the buildup for the Xen Hypervisor ecosystem in order to avoid that scenario.

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