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Citrix Gets XenSource, But What About The Xen Source?

How much does $500 million actually buy? Though it may be enough for Citrix to buy XenSource, the lead commercial entity behind the Xen open source hypervisor, it doesn't actually buy the community behind it. Or does it?

After a $500 million dollar announcement, you'd expect some chatter. But in the open source world of the Xen virtualization hypervisor today is just another day. Vendors in the open source Xen ecosystem such as AMD, Intel and Novell don't expect anything to change much.

The half a billion dollar move by Citrix may well serve to make Xen even more open than it was before.

Virtual Iron is one such Xen ecosystem player that expects no impact to its operations as a result of Citrix's acquisition of XenSource. Among its offerings, Virtual Iron offers its own management tools and platform on top of the Xen hypervisor.

XenSource has a similar type of approach, offering its XenEnterprise products, which provide functionality and management features beyond the core open source Xen hypervisor.

"With the acquisition, it appears that the Xen open source project will become more independent and autonomous with expanded governance by other community members," Tim Walsh, director of Product Marketing at Virtual Iron, told Internetnews.com.

"This should bring additional transparency to the project, which has been a major source of criticism for XenSource and how it has managed the project and controlled the trademarks."

Walsh argued that the acquisition will now invite more active participation in the project from the community. As part of the acquisition-day press conference, XenSource CEO Peter Levine noted that a new foundation would be created to govern and manage the open source project.

"We believe the XenSource acquisition may in fact move the project into a more traditional open source project and finally realize the full potential of its vision," Walsh said.

Xen project leader and founder Ian Pratt noted that there are over 20 major corporations, as well as plenty more individuals and smaller companies, that regularly contribute to the Xen open source software project. Pratt also noted that successful open source communities require transparency and good technical leadership.

"I'm proud of the Xen team's record in delivering this impartial leadership, and grateful that XenSource management has never pressured developers to do otherwise," Pratt told Internetnews.com.

With the creation of the Xen Foundation, the importance of community leadership independence will continue, even with Citrix at the helm of XenSource.

"Creating the Xen Foundation allows for even greater transparency and leadership independence than we have today, and will provide an organized forum for enabling the community of vendors and users that are building Xen into their businesses to influence the project roadmap," Pratt said.

Pratt is expected to serve as the first chairman of the Xen Foundation.

The project roadmap itself for the Xen open source project is not expected to change as a result of XenSource's new owners, either. Pratt explained that the project will continue along the path that was agreed on at the last Xen Developers Summit at IBM's TJ Watson facility in New York in April.

"As regards the future, I guess we'll have to wait and see until after the Xen Foundation's inaugural meeting, but I'd be surprised if there were calls to deviate too far from the current plan," Pratt said.

Though there are many vendors in the Xen ecosystem, Pratt admitted that the Citrix acquisition happened so quickly that it wasn't possible to give a heads up to everyone.

"In many cases there have been senior execs at companies that have been briefed but not the developers and other folks that we work with on a day to day basis, and I hope they'll forgive us for springing a surprise on them," Pratt said.

Among the Xen partners contacted by Internetnews.com, the mood was definitively positive and upbeat.

"Intel continues to be committed to participating in the Linux and Xen communities to drive Linux virtualization forward," said Rammohan Peddibhotla, director of the Open Source Technology Center at Intel. "Given the open source nature of these communities, we’re not expecting changes at the project level."

AMD was also positive. Margaret Lewis, director of commercial solutions at AMD, noted that the acquisition is a reflection of how exciting the virtualization space is today. That said Lewis does not expect it to change AMD's involvement or participation in the Xen open source effort.

"We need to see how customers respond but we don't think it will dull the open source effort, " Lewis said.

For Novell the acquisition of XenSource isn't expected to affect it at all. Novell uses the Xen open source hypervisor in its SUSE Linux Enterprise and OpenSUSE Linux distributions.

"It will have no impact. The Xen project is not XenSource, nor vice versa," Novell spokesperson Kevan Barney said. "The effect on Novell is the same as if someone bought Red Hat; that's the beauty of open source."