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Novell Broadens Its Virtualization Vision

Novell has announced the next version of its flagship Linux platform; the most interesting thing for readers of this blog are the many hints dropped about Novell's virtualization strategy.

We don't know when SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 is coming out; Novell says it will release details about availability "later this year" (thanks for that Novell; that's extremely helpful information. Like, major "Duh"). One thing the press release strongly implies, however, is that Novell wants to compete with VMware in the embedded hypervisor space.

Here are the relevant passages:

"Novell plans to leverage the latest in Xen technologies in SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 to deliver virtualization in multiple formats, both directly as a component of the operating system and also as a stand-alone or embedded virtualization platform."

"Work is also underway to develop a stand-alone virtualization platform that can be embedded in new hardware or can be deployed on existing hardware."

"A new embedded version of SUSE Linux Enterprise is also planned so independent hardware vendors (IHVs) can embed virtualization and operating systems directly in their hardware."

Now, when you mention something three different times in the same release, you're doing the Internet equivalent of SHOUTING WITH ALL CAPS. Novell is taking on VMware directly with this embedding play (Xen, for those of you who don't know, is an open source hypervisor used as the virtualization platform of choice for many vendors, including Novell, Citrix, Sun, Oracle, Red Hat, Virtual Iron and others.)

Also of interest is the mention of a "stand-alone virtualization platform". That's interesting wording; could Novell be working on something new here, since they don't call it a Xen-based offering? Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but maybe not.

Novell is also moving beyond server virtualization. It began with the recent acquisition of PlateSpin, which gives it a stronger foothold in the management, capacity planning and disaster recovery aspects. It now continues in desktops, a segment that's seriously heating up. Back to the press release:

"Moreover, planned investments in new desktop virtualization technology will decouple end users' computing environments from the underlying hardware and allow them to work anywhere, anytime."

I wonder if that means Novell is developing desktop virtualization products, or is planning on buying their way in, a la PlateSpin. (Note the timing: Microsoft just bought its own desktop virtualizaiton vendor, Kidaro.) It will also make some folks over at Citrix sit up and take notice, as a new competitor for XenDesktop.

In all, this one little announcement is an important event. It signals that Novell plans to stake its claim in what it hopes is the coming virtualization gold rush.

Posted by Keith Ward on 03/18/2008 at 12:48 PM


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