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Novell hints at pending Windows virtualization news

Red Hat is set to release RHEL5 in a few weeks – about the same time Novell will make a virtualization announcement with Microsoft and a key chip manufacturer.

Novell Inc. likes to point out that it launched SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 a full nine months before Red Hat Inc. could get its latest Linux release, RHEL5, out the door (it is due out in March).

Nevertheless, beta testers have been heaping praise on RHEL5 and Xen, prompting Novell vice president of open platform applications Roger Levy to talk about his own company's stance on Xen, paravirtualization, and its partnership with Microsoft.

We intend to be in the Linux business for a long time to come.
Roger Levy
Novell vice president of open platform solutions, speaking about Novell's potential violation of the GPLv3. Does Novell have any news coming out?

Roger Levy: Novell has some key press releases coming out very soon. One is a press release with a chip vendor about a new level of support for Windows virtualization. The other is an announcement regarding a roadmap of all capabilities we will be delivering with Microsoft from our collaborative partnership. That includes a series of interoperability deliveries in virtualization between Novell and Microsoft. We have talked about a couple of those already, like Longhorn virtualization on top of SLES 10.

Linux Torvalds just released version 2.6.20 of the Linux kernel, which includes Kernel-based Virtual Machine. Novell has Xen baked into its operating system, so what are you thoughts on KVM?

Levy: It is an important step as an underlying technology. And it has moved into, which is important as well. Our goal here [at Novell] is to make sure it is a part of the overall plan, but, at same time, we believe that there are strong advantages with paravirtualization. I think the really significant progress will be with Xen. With all of these core underlying virtualization technologies, however, it is the surrounding management tools coupled with the technology that will make them successful.

Ultimately, it will be management tools, performance and hardening that will turn them into a mission-critical technology with the ability to run the data centers of major corporations.

What's Novell doing with Xen in 2007?

Levy: Novell will continue to focus on enhancing the development of management tools and infrastructure. We will continue to enhance the technology overall in terms of performance and hardening. What I see for us with Xen and virtualization is that our real focus is on continuing to grant enterprises to get scalability and management throughout SUSE distribution as well as through ZenWorks, which is a suite of software products for systems management. And 2007 is the year when we deliver on our commitment of interoperability between Windows and Linux.

Novell baked Xen into SUSE in mid-2006. What has the head start allowed Novell to do?

Levy: I don't like to compare Novell with the competition, but we have had four times the amount of contributions to Xen. We have built up one of the larger teams in the industry that has very strong expertise [with Xen]. The other piece of this discussion is … the management tools have been built around it. Because virtualization is such a great tool, we need a way to orchestrate images, warehouse them and load balance.

Could you name some specific Xen contributions Novell has made?

Levy: It's been all over the code base, really. We made tons contributions to the hypervisor design and, really, across almost all major functional parts of Xen. A lot of contributions have been around scalability and performance specifically to make Xen ready for enterprise use. This includes I/O paths and looking at how to get them running like greased lighting, because the real promise of paravirtualization is being able to deliver close to native performance.

How has the Linux stage changed since the Oracle and Microsoft announcements last year?

Levy: It's obviously been an exciting time. Customers are telling us they want a stronger level of interoperability with one of another key OS, in this case Windows. With that partnership, we went beyond the traditional walls and boundaries to deliver what we feel is a strong technology solution, a business solution, and a diplomatic solution. The reaction from AIG, Wal-Mart and others is confirmation of that. At this stage I see continued growth in the Linux market, with a very strong emphasis on mission critical and the data center. [Editor's note: So do analysts, who have predicted Linux will be controlling mission critical operations in 50% of all data centers by 2011.]

Can you comment on a recent Reuters article that said Novell will be barred from selling Linux because of its partnership with Microsoft?

Levy: That article was debunked and the record set straight. The clarification has been very direct in terms of explaining that what Eben Moglen [General Counsel for the Free Software Foundation] said was being taken somewhat out of context. I think the Reuters article has been put into proper context. We intend to be in the Linux business for a long time to come.

That article dealt with GPLv2, but how important is the upcoming GPLv3 final draft to the future of Novell?

For more information:
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5: All about Xen

Spotlight: Xen tips, tricks and news

Levy: Obviously it is important to Novell. I can't comment very directly on the drafting of GPLv3, but I can say that we are very heavily involved in the process. The current content in GPLv3 is private, and we will respect the Freedom Software Foundation's wishes to keep it that way. [Editor's note: The Freedom Software Foundation, which wrote the GPL license, has stated that the Novell-Microsoft pact is in violation of parts of the upcoming GPLv3].

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