Xen Cut from RHEL 6

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 23, 2010

Red Hat pushed out a beta release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6 this week with a long list of new features, and one that didn't make the cut: Xen. Instead, Red Hat is going to focus all of its efforts on the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM).

Joab Jackson on PC World, reports that Red Hat dropped Xen because it was costing a great deal of effort maintaining Xen and KVM. Red Hat will still be supporting its RHEL 5 customers with Xen installations, but this means that the company won't be investing in further Xen development.

Not surprising for Red Hat seeing as it purchased Qumranet, the company behind KVM, in 2008. The writing was on the wall then but for a while Red Hat was investing in management tools for multiple hypervisors.

The question is whether this will have any material impact on Xen remains to be seen. It does mean Xen support in RHEL clones goes away with RHEL 6. CentOS is will follow RHEL, so its user base will drop Xen with RHEL 6 as well. And if Oracle wants to continue supporting Xen, the company will have to do its own development to add in Xen to "Unbreakable Linux" since it won't be coming from upstream. Other distributions may also choose to follow suit as KVM continues to mature and support erodes for Xen. Note that KVM is not quite on par with Xen as of yet, but it has the advantage of being in the mainline Linux kernel and is advancing pretty rapidly.

It probably won't prove fatal to Xen, but it's not likely to help. This does highlight the importance of being in the mainline Linux kernel. KVM was in the mainline kernel long before Red Hat acquired Qumranet, and the company might not have been acquired if it hadn't succeeded in pushing KVM upstream. Being in mainline means a lot less work for vendors who want to ship the technology, and more hands willing to provide patches, etc.

Red Hat has been in a cutting mood with RHEL 6. The company also dropped support for Itanium from RHEL 6. Anybody going to miss either one?