Novell to Support Red Hat Linux With Xen, Intel Technology

In a twist made possible by virtualization, or the running of multiple “virtual” computer servers on one physical server through special software, Novell said this week it would support Linux virtualization, including instances of rival Red Hat’s Linux Enterprise 4 operating system, using Xen virtualization optimized for Intel hardware.

Novell said it will offer enterprise support both for its own Suse Linux Enterprise Server 9 and for RHEL 4 running on top of Suse Linux Enterprise Server 10 using Xen technology and Intel’s dual-core Xeon platforms.

Spreading Support

Highlighting its Intel-optimized virtualization capabilities in Suse Linux Enterprise Server 10, Novell said it would support RHEL 4 through core engineering support covering the Xen hypervisor, virtual instances of RHEL and the Intel virtualization hardware.

Many of Novell’s customers have mixed environments with Solaris, Windows, Red Hat and Suse Linux, and the company is looking to spread the Xen virtualization technology wider with the Intel hardware specialization, Novell Suse Linux Product Marketing Manager Clive Bearman told LinuxInsider.

“Red Hat was one of the operating systems we’re looking to support,” he said, calling the rival firm’s Linux distribution a logical starting point. “It was just a natural thing.”

Chiseling at Foundation

Novell is planning support for virtual instances of its competitor’s platform in order to gain entry points into a market dominated by Red Hat, and to accommodate cutting-edge customers who are running multiple Linux distribution environments, Gartner Vice President George Weiss told LinuxInsider.

“It’s a smart move for them to be able to try to crack some of the solid foundation Red Hat has built and get users to at least trial Suse in their environments,” he said.

Novell will have to deal with issues related to support, patch management and updates that are provided through the Red Hat Network, and there are still questions as to exactly what will or will not be covered by Novell’s support, according to Weiss.

The firm’s inclusion of Xen virtualization in its latest Suse version despite claims by some that the technology is not quite ready for enterprise production use was another effort to wedge into the Linux market that is dominated by Red Hat, he said.

“They are, again, getting parts of the market they wouldn’t have gotten,” he said. “It’s their attempt to come from behind in critical elements.”

Red Hat Responds

Red Hat issued a defensive response to Novell’s announcement Wednesday.

“Misleading communications competitors are making regarding the support of our platform are further indication of the indelible demand for Red Hat Enterprise Linux,” the company said in a statement provided to LinuxInsider.

Red Hat declined to specify what was misleading about Novell’s anouncement, indicating only that its statement was “in response to Novell’s claims.”

As for Xen virtualization, Red Hat reiterated it was working to support the open source technology and is still on track to ship it with its next major update to RHEL, version 5, due out the end of this year.

“Red Hat is investing aggressively in the Xen project and in ensuring its readiness for the enterprise,” the firm said.

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