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Novell virtualizes NetWare with Xen

Still running NetWare? With the release of Open Enterprise Server 2, Novell has enabled paravirtualization with Xen as a guest on top of SUSE Linux.

Today, Waltham, Mass.-based Novell Inc. announced the immediate availability of Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 (OES2) on which it runs its NetWare network services. Key features include 64-bit support of previously Netware-exclusive software services, storage management enhancements and the ability to run NetWare as a paravirtualized Xen guest running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES).

More on Novell OES:
Tip: Microsoft meets enterprise Linux with Novell Open Enterprise Server 2

OES is used for the delivery of enterprise-level shared network services, including file, print, directory, clustering and backup, but the key feature in version 2.0 is the Xen-based NetWare paravirtualization, said Burton Group analyst Richard Jones.

The biggest thing going for OES2 [Open Enterprise Server 2] is the fact that Novell leveraged Xen to let users run NetWare.
Richard Jones,
analystBurton Group.

"Basically, this is Novell's second try at the Open Enterprise Server. The first didn't receive good reviews from the independent hardware vendors because it was yet another thing to deal with in addition to Windows and other versions of Linux and Unix," Jones said.

But in recent years, Novell has decided to commit entirely to SLES and install OES on top of the operating system as an add-on package of services and tools. In mid-2006, Novell also integrated the Xen 3.0 hypervisor into its SUSE Linux operating system.

"The biggest thing going for OES2 is the fact that Novell leveraged Xen to let users run NetWare," Jones said. "This functionality allows for great backward compatibility for companies that are still running NetWare for integral business processes or specialized custom applications."

This backward compatibility for NetWare users is comparable to Microsoft's giving Windows users access to a late-1980s-era MS-DOS prompt menu, Jones said. "[Xen] gives life to those people who had built their business processes around NetWare and today do not have the expenses to rebuild their systems for another OS," he said.

Other than catering to NetWare stalwarts, Novell is also using the addition of Xen to encourage remaining NetWare shops to move to Linux. In a statement, Jeff Jaffe, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Novell, said NetWare customers can choose to run the software in paravirtualized mode on Linux to "take full advantage of the latest hardware while maintaining their current NetWare environment and preferences as they move to Linux."

One customer, the U.S. Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), recently migrated from NetWare to Open Enterprise Server 2 and used Xen to consolidate 45 of its commodity servers down to 10 for a savings of approximately $200,000.

"Xen also extends life expectancy from a hardware perspective, because now hardware vendors don't have to write new drivers for a network and can focus on SLES and have it covered," Jones said.

In addition to the virtualization functionality, Open Enterprise Server 2 features Dynamic Storage Technology. This addition uses customer-defined policies to recognize active and stale data and then automatically shifts it to the appropriate storage device as the data's status changes.

Putting active data on high-end storage devices and inactive or stale data on tape or other low-cost devices has numerous benefits. It enables better use of expensive storage hardware, streamlines backup of critical data, improves disaster preparedness, and reduces administrative costs, Jones said.

Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 is available now as a standalone product and will be available as part of the Novell Open Workgroup Suite within 30 days.

Email Jack Loftus, News Writer, with your questions and comments on Linux support.

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