The Citrix-hosted xen.org community announced on Monday the Xen Cloud Platform, upon which developers can collaborate to build a "complete packaging of Xen," ultimately allowing enterprises the ability to run more applications and have control in the cloud they would normally have in their own data centres.
Instead of downloading the Xen hypervisor from Xen.org (the community that built the open source hypervisor) and building their own features around it, developers can now focus on the same code base on a standardized cloud platform, said Ian Pratt, creator of Xen and founder of Xen.org with Fort Launderdale, Florida-based Citrix Systems Inc.
"(Xen Cloud Platform) is going to be a complete infrastructure aimed particularly at cloud providers, because Xen is already very strong in the cloud today," said Pratt.
By enabling provisioning of virtual private data centres in the cloud, providers can offer enterprises a "much larger subset of the things you would deploy in your own data centre," said Pratt.
Today, enterprises are limited in terms of applications they can run on virtual private cloud servers, said Pratt, but a virtual private data centre will give more access to control and quality of service.
And because it is a community-driven initiative, the Xen Cloud Platform is intended to support a wide variety of existing and future cloud scenarios. "Regardless of choice of virtual infrastructure, that shouldn't limit or distract which vendor they can choose as their cloud provider," said Pratt.
While there is an advisory board to help make decisions within the development community, the developers themselves will drive the discussions, said Pratt.
Many standardized components of the platform already exist in current vendors' products, said Pratt, so it's "just a matter of selecting and pre-packaging and declaring them to be the Xen cloud platform."
One key objective of the community, added Pratt, is to drive standards when it comes to pools of interconnected virtualized servers, instead of just single-server systems.
"That's where things start to get exciting from a virtualization point of view and the kinds of things that has enabled," said Pratt.
But while open source is really only as good as the sum of its parts, the concept of the Xen Cloud Platform is intriguing, said Mark Bowker, analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.
"Perhaps most interesting is the approach to incorporating infrastructure into the platform that is very Google-like in terms of leveraging hardware as opposed to requiring highly integrated servers, networking and storage components like the leading virtualization providers," said Bowker.
While the platform does warrant some attention as enterprises evolve their data centres, Bowker doesn't believe enterprises will "hit the brakes on their virtualization deployments" just yet.
According to Rob Enderle, principal analyst with San Jose, Calif.-based Enderle Group, the move by Citrix towards such a standardized complete platform is natural considering they are well trusted and have one of the better hypervisors.
However, Citrix appears overmatched in the emerging cloud arena compared to better-funded rivals Microsoft Corp. and VMware Inc. (by virtue of EMC Corp.), said Enderle.
"At this scale, size of the company becomes very important, and it is this size that may be Citrix's big competitive weakness," said Enderle.