Xen.org Delivers Version 3.3 of the Xen Hypervisor

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 27, 2008

Xen.org, which is behind the open source Xen virtualization project, is out with its new Xen 3.3 engine. You can download it now, and grab a PDF datasheet as well. Xen 3.3 is faster and more scalable than previous versions, and has better graphics capabilities. It targets more types of chipsets--from supercomputing to handheld chipsets. Yes that's right, handhelds. The new Xen is smaller than ever. What else is under the hood?

"The Xen.org community has made security and performance key criteria for the evolution of Xen," said Zeus Kerravala, SVP, Enterprise Research, at analyst firm the Yankee Group. "This has been a successful strategy, according to recent Yankee Group survey data showing Xen's rapid growth." Xen was first released in 2005, and is now on almost a fifth of virtualized servers, according to Xen.org. It has also presented a growing challenge to proprietary virtualization vendors, especially VMware.

The announcement from Xen.org also includes this input from Intel: "At Intel, we continue to enable Xen to take advantage of the advancements in Intel Virtualization Technologies and other platform capabilities," said Imad Sousou, Director of Intel Open Source Technology Center. "Xen 3.3 is optimized for Intel's next generation micro-architecture Nehalem features; enhanced power management, performance, I/O and networking features for building flexible resource management solutions in an energy-efficient data center."

Nehalem is one platform that Xen 3.3 has been tested on, and it works with x64, IA64 and ARM-based platforms. Xen.org is even focused on spreading virtualization on handheld systems. Would you like to run multiple operating systems on your smartphone? Don't laugh. Xen is already shipping on several laptops.

Quite a bit of what's in Xen 3.3 is focused on lowering power consumption and reducing costs in data centers. Xen also takes advantage of a full 64-bit address space, so large amounts of physical memory can be managed. There are also fewer limitations on moving running virtual machines from one location to another, and security enhancements.

The Xen project is a great success story of the open source movement," said Simon Crosby, CTO, Virtualization and Management Division, Citrix Systems. "It just two years, Xen has rapidly gained share in virtualization, much as Linux did in operating systems - and in the same period Xen has driven the price of competing hypervisors to zero, allowing any vendor to include virtualization for free."

That's the real story here, in my opinion. Xen is only three years old, but it has had a huge impact on the virtualization arena. Proprietary players such as VMware have to think long and hard about how they are going to differentiate their offerings, with free and open source competition from Xen, and the growing trend for virtualization to be offered free in operating systems. OpenSolaris and Windows Server offer free virtualization with the operating system--and Red Hat and Novell bundle Xen. Sun uses code from Xen for its virtualization.

I also find it interesting to note that some of the consumer electronics manufacturers are waking up to Xen and how they can employ it for free virtualization. Samsung, for example, has made contributions to Xen, and predicts that the Xen architecture will become "pervasive in consumer electronics devices." As storage capacities and memory increase on pocketable devices, look for virtualization and multiple operating systems to show up on them.

For more on the new Xen, see Stacey's piece on our parent blog GigaOm. She discusses both the new Xen and trends in desktop virtualization.