Open source virtualisation specialist XenSource has updated XenEnterprise, its enterprise-level hypervisor, aiming to cement its position as the main alternative to market leader VMware.

Version 3.2 of the bare-metal virtualisation product enables deployment of additional Windows and Linux versions and, said the company, adds SMP support for Windows guest virtual machines (VMs). XenSource, which originated in Cambridge, also claimed that XenEnterprise 3.2 is more secure, faster, and offers improved management capabilities. It also adds support for iSCSI SANs.

New features include:

  • Support for Windows 2000 virtual servers, which enables consolidation of most Windows server workloads. Marketing manager John Bara said this was an especially requested feature from the company's European customers. Maximum RAM for guest VMs remains at 8GB, which chief engineer Gordon Mangione said was enough for workloads such as Oracle.

  • Multi-processor support (SMP) for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP guests - delivering scalable virtualisation of Exchange, SQL Server, and other multi-threaded and compute-intensive applications.

  • Improved Windows guest support, which provides accelerated network performance, ability to suspend/resume virtual machines, up to 8GB RAM per Windows guest, and signed drivers with Microsoft WHQL certification. Mangione claimed that only XenSource provided signed drivers for its product.

  • More OS support, including the recently released Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and Novell SuSE 10 Service Pack 1.

  • iSCSI SAN support, which provides cheaper access to networked storage than Fibre Channel.

  • VLAN trunk support for virtual bridges for network traffic isolation.

  • CPU, disk and network resource control which allows IT organisations to target server resources according to workload priority.

  • Serviceability enhancements via tools that let users upload all data needed for support with a single command. This simplifies technology support, said XenSource.

"XenSource offers a proven platform for Windows and Linux virtualisation," said Bara. "Customers are embracing XenSource solutions because they are open and easy to use, perform extremely well, and have the market’s broadest hardware device support.

"Our new release offers enhanced features that provide broader guest OS choices and more powerful virtualisation management, plus our recent benchmark report shows that XenSource matches or outperforms VMware’s ESX on most of the benchmarks VMware had selected for comparison."

Since introducing its Windows product in December 2006, XenSource has added more than 200 customers, reckoned the company.

Bara also provided a glimpse into the next rev of the product, due in summer. Codenamed Rio, it adds 64-bit support and live migration that's claimed to be better than VMware's Vmotion.

"Our strategy is to catch and pass VMware," said Bara. "We have more attractive pricing -- we're only 20 percent of the cost -- we're signing up VMware partners and we're adding to our management feature set."

The price remains the same at $750 for a dual socket server.

Customer comment

"Our beta test of XenEnterprise 3.2 demonstrated the benefits of virtualising our data centre," said Chris Rogers, president of ServerCave, a US hosting provider and consulting firm. According to Rogers, the decision to incorporate XenEnterprise 3.2 as part its customer solution stems from the ease of deployment and the attractive price point. "The use of XenEnterprise allows ServerCave to take advantage of both the efficiency and economy the software provides. We are able to maximise the usage of the server resources, and we can increase our client base without having to purchase additional hardware."