Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Ignacio M. Llorente, Haim Koshchitzky, Liz McMillan, Gary Kaiser

Related Topics: Virtualization

Virtualization: Article

"Virtualization Is Now a Key Strategic Theme," Says Citrix CTO

Exclusive Q&A with Simon Crosby, CTO of Citrix & Founder of XenSource

"Virtualization is already widely used, but primarily for the first-order benefit, namely server consolidation," notes Citrix CTO Simon Crosby, in this Exclusive Q&A with SYS-CON's Virtualization Journal. "The second-order benefits of agility, availability and manageability of the IT stack are now becoming better understood," Crosby continues, "and as a consequence virtualization has moved from a tactical tool for gaining immediate savings, to become a key strategic theme for every IT department."

About Simon Crosby:
Now CTO of Citrix Systems, Simon Crosby was founder and CTO of XenSource prior to the acquisition of XenSource by Citrix. Prior to XenSource, he was a principal engineer at Intel where he led strategic research in distributed autonomic computing, platform security and trust. In 2007, he was awarded a coveted spot as one of InfoWorld’s Top 25 CTOs.

Virtualization Journal: Starting at 35,000 ft…where does the Xen hypervisor fit in the virtualization universe?
Simon Crosby: The Xen hypervisor is the industry’s most strategic code base for virtualization. Why? First, it is a tiny, optimized, open source reference standard hypervisor for a wide range of CPU architectures, with extensive support for high performance virtualization-enhanced CPUs and I/O subsystems. Because it has multiple routes to market in any given year, the hardware manufacturers ensure that Xen has “first and best” support for the latest hardware, ensuring that it always leads the industry in scalability and performance. In addition:
  • It is collaboratively built by the industry’s leading IT vendors, led by Citrix and including Intel, AMD, IBM, HP, Novell, Red Hat, Sun, VA Linux and many others.
  • The Xen security architecture is contributed by the security community, including researchers, IBM’s secure hypervisor project, the NSA and DoD.
  • Xen is used in the world’s largest virtualization deployments, for example by Amazon, with a deployment of thousands of servers virtualized using Xen.
  • The Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor is in fact an implementation of the Xen reference architecture, built by Microsoft, and compatible with Citrix XenServer.
Virtualization Journal: The first public release of Xen was made available in 2003, how long did it take for you and your Cambridge collaborators to get it to that stage?
Crosby: The Xen code base has been in development now for seven years. When we started XenSource, we had released Xen 2.5, and were working on Xen 3.0.

Virtualization Journal:
What was and is the relationship between XenSource, Inc. and the Xen project?
Crosby: XenSource’s founders – all former University of Cambridge faculty who developed Xen in their research – decided that the Xen hypervisor needed a company to support its ongoing development when large users of Xen told us that we needed to build a complete product offering based on Xen so they could be confident that their commercial deployments would have the backing of a commercial entity.

Virtualization Journal: XenSource still hosts the xen.org site – what’s the situation there, since the Citrix acquisition? Will the community and its processes continue to be respected?
Simon Crosby: XenSource is part of Citrix – indeed XenSource is no longer a formal entity at all. Citrix hosts xen.org for the community, but it is run entirely separately from all of our product development activity. The community site at www.xen.org has its own program manager, tasked with serving the community and the Xen project Advisory Board.


The board oversees the day-to-day project management processes, and sets policies such as the trademark policy for the Xen® brand. The advisory board members come from Intel, IBM, HP, Novell, Red Hat and Sun, and the Chair is Ian Pratt, the Xen project leader, from Citrix. Citrix has already invested heavily in additional headcount on Xen, and is a sponsor of the upcoming Xen Summit, to be held in conjunction with Usenix in Boston, in June.


Virtualization Journal: If paravirtualization equals second-generation virtualization, what will third-generation virtualization look like?
Simon Crosby: From a hypervisor architecture perspective, there is very little left to “optimize away” in the way that paravirtualization allows us to slim down the code base. What will happen is that all of the data center infrastructure, from CPUs to memory management, to I/O chipsets and even storage subsystems will become “virtualization aware” and assist with the job of speeding up what formerly had to be done either in the hypervisor or the virtualization stack that drives it.

Within the next year, I/O Virtualization (often called IOV) standardized by the PCI SIG will start to be supported by fabric and I/O card vendors. This allows optimized fast-path I/O between guests and hardware in a virtualization-safe manner, without needing to use the driver stack offered by the virtualization platform itself. This effectively removes most of the remaining overhead of virtualization. We recently demonstrated XenServer with a performance of about 10,000 iSCSI IOPS on a 10Gb/s IOV card from SolarFlare, for example. This means that the most challenging workloads can now be virtualized.


Virtualization Journal: How about embedded hypervisors, what’s the future trajectory there?
Crosby: Citrix XenServer is now an add-in option at point of sale on over 50 percent of x86 servers worldwide. We recently announced a jointly developed embedded product with HP for ProLiant servers that HP refers to as its “preferred embedded virtualization option for ProLiant.” Putting the virtualization platform in hardware is, in our view, the next natural progression for the industry, since OEMs can leverage the capabilities of the hardware through their add-on systems management stacks to offer customers powerful, seamless management for virtualization as a built-in component of the management stack.

For customers, this is the cheapest and highest performance virtualization offering available, and it has the full benefit of complete integration with all of HP’s management tools. At the same time, Microsoft with Hyper-V in the OS, and the Linux vendors with Xen have the opportunity to leverage the same code base through a different delivery model, where the OS virtualizes more instances of that OS, or other guests. This model is still in its early stages – the Linux vendors don’t virtualize Windows well, and Microsoft Hyper-V doesn’t support Linux particularly well.



Virtualization Journal: It has inevitably been said that 2008 is, at long last, The Year of Virtualization. What do you think took everyone in Enterprise IT so long?
Crosby: Enterprise IT has not been standing still. Indeed virtualization is already widely used, but primarily for the first-order benefit, namely server consolidation. The second-order benefits of agility, availability and manageability of the IT stack are now becoming better understood, and as a consequence virtualization has moved from a tactical tool for gaining immediate savings, to become a key strategic theme for every IT department.

But there is also another key factor that changes in 2008. Until this year the competition in the market was really only VMware and XenSource – a tiny startup. The acquisition by Citrix gives our product, XenServer, a huge channel, a large investment in features, additional value-added functions that leverage Xen, 24x7 worldwide support and all the clout needed to serve true enterprise customers and use cases. As we go to market with XenServer, we also collaborate closely with Microsoft, who will deliver Hyper-V to market in the summer. Our intention is to leverage both footprints to deliver powerful virtualization-optimized solutions to customers for data-center automation, virtual desktop infrastructure and application delivery. Citrix products XenServer, XenDesktop and XenApp, all contain virtualization as a core feature set (server, desktop and application, respectively).

Until 2008, VMware was the only choice, their hypervisor cost thousands of dollars, and they had the market to themselves. In 2008, Citrix and Microsoft bring customers an open architecture, a price/performance and feature set that is difficult to beat, and a powerful channel that can deliver customers a real choice for their virtual infrastructure for the first time. Importantly, our products will all also add value to VMware virtualized infrastructure, to fully support customers that have purchased VMware enterprise licenses.

It will be a very exciting year!

Virtualization Journal: What’s the risk of Virtualization becoming just another buzzword used in the attempt to get organizations to “sign a check”?
Crosby: The word is already over-used, and every vendor wants a “virtualization spin” on their product. Customers are smart though, and I think they understand that first and foremost they need to pick a hypervisor. There’s VMware, or the compatible pair of Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V. Second, there’s virtualized storage. We believe that there will be tremendous innovation in the storage area to optimize the management of storage for virtual machines in hardware, as opposed to doing this in software on the host, as VMware does. Third, there are dynamic infrastructure software services that:
  • Provision virtual machines – we offer dynamic provisioning on XenServer, Hyper-V, VMware and (crucially) on bare metal
  • Optimize performance of virtual machines on the infrastructure through workflow based automated provisioning
  • Protect virtual machines by offering them high-availability or even fault-tolerance
  • Manage VM lifecycle
This area of virtualization management is an area rich with innovation that can exploit XenServer or Hyper-V to deliver powerful new choices to customers. There is a lot of hot air in vendors’ pitches right now, and customers should really look under the covers to understand the ROI before they purchase new tools.


Virtualization Journal:
The Xen AB currently has members from Citrix, IBM, Intel, HP, Novell, Red Hat and Sun – is it likely that further companies would get onto the Advisory Board?
Crosby: The AB is drawn from the top contributors to Xen, and includes the first key vendors that delivered the Xen hypervisor to market. As new vendors join the ranks of those that ship Xen to customers, I expect the AB will grow, since those vendors have a strategic interest in Xen’s continued prominence.

Virtualization Journal:
You’ve been hailed as one of the top 25 CTOs in the industry: what duty or duties of care do you feel such acclaim brings with it for a top software executive in the first decade of the twenty-first century? Is the ‘IT greening’ aspect of virtualization important to you, for example?
Crosby: I am incredibly fortunate to be in a position that allows me to advocate a technology and community that I find inspiring. The community builds the world’s best hypervisor using a development model based on collaborative contribution without charge. Xen is great because its community makes it great and makes it freely available.

The impact of Xen in a global sense, beyond vendors and products, has been to slash the price of virtualization, making it a free feature set available to everyone. Server consolidation should be free, because it makes a powerful contribution to the greening of IT. To the Xen community goes the credit for a powerful, open, collaborative development spirit that will have a tremendous worldwide impact on power consumption and therefore global warming.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Cloud Expo Breaking News
Cloud Computing is evolving into a Big Three of Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Cloud 360: Multi-Cloud Bootcamp, being held Nov 4–5, 2014, in conjunction with 15th Cloud Expo in Santa Clara, CA, delivers a real-world demonstration of how to deploy and configure a scalable and available web application on all three platforms. The Cloud 360 Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, an analyst with Gigaom Research, is the first bootcamp that introduces the core concepts of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) based on the workings of the Big Three platforms – Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine, and Azure VMs. Bootcamp attendees will get to see the big picture and also receive the knowledge needed to make the best cloud decisions for their business applications and entire enterprise IT organization.
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things is a natural complement to the cloud and related technologies such as Big Data, analytics, and mobility. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Joe Weinman will lay out four generic strategies – digital disciplines – to exploit emerging digital technologies for strategic advantage. Joe Weinman has held executive leadership positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, and Telx, in areas such as corporate strategy, business development, product management, operations, and R&D.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DevOps.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's “DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo,” which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. DevOps.com is where the world meets DevOps. It is the largest collection of original content relating to DevOps on the web today Featuring up-to-the-minute news, feature stories, blogs, bylined articles and more, DevOps.com is where the thought leaders of the DevOps movement make their ideas known.
There are 182 billion emails sent every day, generating a lot of data about how recipients and ISPs respond. Many marketers take a more-is-better approach to stats, preferring to have the ability to slice and dice their email lists based numerous arbitrary stats. However, fundamentally what really matters is whether or not sending an email to a particular recipient will generate value. Data Scientists can design high-level insights such as engagement prediction models and content clusters that allow marketers to cut through the noise and design their campaigns around strong, predictive signals, rather than arbitrary statistics. SendGrid sends up to half a billion emails a day for customers such as Pinterest and GitHub. All this email adds up to more text than produced in the entire twitterverse. We track events like clicks, opens and deliveries to help improve deliverability for our customers – adding up to over 50 billion useful events every month. While SendGrid data covers only abo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that the Web Host Industry Review has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Since 2000, The Web Host Industry Review has made a name for itself as the foremost authority of the Web hosting industry providing reliable, insightful and comprehensive news, reviews and resources to the hosting community. TheWHIR Blogs provides a community of expert industry perspectives. The Web Host Industry Review Magazine also offers a business-minded, issue-driven perspective of interest to executives and decision-makers. WHIR TV offers on demand web hosting video interviews and web hosting video features of the key persons and events of the web hosting industry. WHIR Events brings together like-minded hosting industry professionals and decision-makers in local communities. TheWHIR is an iNET Interactive property.
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Verizon has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Verizon Enterprise Solutions creates global connections that generate growth, drive business innovation and move society forward. With industry-specific solutions and a full range of global wholesale offerings provided over the company's secure mobility, cloud, strategic networking and advanced communications platforms, Verizon Enterprise Solutions helps open new opportunities around the world for innovation, investment and business transformation. Visit verizonenterprise.com to learn more.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TMCnet has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC) is the world's leading business to business and integrated marketing media company, servicing niche markets within the communications and technology industries.
"In my session I spoke about enterprise cloud analytics and how we can leverage analytics as a service," explained Ajay Budhraja, CTO at the Department of Justice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
“We are starting to see people move beyond the commodity cloud and enterprises need to start focusing on additional value added services in order to really drive their adoption," explained Jason Mondanaro, Director of Product Management at MetraTech, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
"We are automated capacity control software, which basically looks at all the supply and demand and running a virtual cloud environment and does a deep analysis of that and says where should things go," explained Andrew Hillier, Co-founder & CTO of CiRBA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mac Devine, Distinguished Engineer at IBM, will discuss bringing these three elements together via Systems of Discover.
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at 15th Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, Vice President, Product Strategy of LogMeIn's Xively IoT Platform, will show you how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
All too many discussions about DevOps conclude that the solution is an all-purpose player: developer and operations guru, complete with pager for round-the-clock duty. For most organizations that is not the way forward. In his session at DevOps Summit, Bernard Golden, Vice President of Strategy at ActiveState, will discuss how to achieve the agility and speed of end-to-end automation without requiring an organization stocked with Supermen and Superwomen.