Now and Xen

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Novell on Monday demonstrated the virtualization capabilities of its open source enterprise products and outlined a strategy that will allow its e-mail software to be deployed on mobile devices.

The company said Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 10 will provide full integration with Xen, an open source project that allows users to simulate a second hardware environment on a single machine. Until Xen gained momentum last year, most enterprise IT environments had pursued virtualization strategies through products from VMWare, but executives at Novell’s BrainShare conference here said Xen virtual machines will deliver nearly the same performance as the actual piece of hardware. The network behind this year’s BrainShare is being run on beta 7 of SLES, Novell chairman Jack Messman told the keynote audience.

Red Hat Software has already announced Xen integration for its own enterprise sever product, but Novell vice-president of Linux engineering Eric Anderson said Novell has four times as many code insertions in Xen as any other Linux distribution. “Ladies and gentlemen, believe me: We know Xen virtualization,” he said.

Anderson said the virtualization capabilities in SLES will allow IT managers to more easily execute projects around server consolidation, since it means the machines can handle more work. It should allow higher availability, better resource allocation and improved security, he added. Novell is also trying to simplify SLES by creating a single patch management and update mechanism, which will be ready out of the box with ZenWorks, its system management product.

Novell is positioning itself as the best of the proprietary worlds and of the open source community. “What makes Novell unique is that it participates in both,” Messman said.

Gwava, a Montreal-based firm that works closely with Novell, cheered its “open enterprise” strategy. Gwava started moving its own product line over to Linux about two years ago, and this year plans to double the US$10 million in Linux-related business, according to founder and president Marc St. Arnaud.

“This year, we’re really seeing the response,” said Richard Bliss, Gwava’s vice-president of marketing.

Novell also announced Monday GroupWise Mobile Server, which will work with Intellisync to provide its e-mail software over smart phones, handhelds and other devices. Intellisync was acquired by Nokia last year. Messman also pointed to a partnership with Research In Motion, one of the major BrainShare 2006 sponsors. The RIM QuickStart offer will include a BlackBerry Enterprise Server licence to run GroupWise with its push e-mail service as well as five client licences. The offer will be free to users of GroupWise 7, which was released last August.

“Mobility has always been the biggest bugaboo for GroupWise users,” said Bliss, adding that the announcements should help redefine industry perceptions of GroupWise. “It’s always been the third horse in a two-horse race . . . now it’s looking more like No. 2. GroupWise has finally stepped up.”

Gwava, which Bliss said ranks as Novell’s largest GroupWise partner, offers a management tool called Redline which administrators can use to monitor mobile e-mail services in the event they go down. Two months ago it also launched a product called Reload, which backs up and restores GroupWise systems. Such tools go a long way to encouraging Novell customers to make the move towards open source, Bliss added.

Novell is also trying to ease the transition for customers through Open Enterprise Server (OES), an open source version of its flagship NetWare operating system that was released last year. Messman announced Open Workgroup Suite, which will combine GroupWise, ZenWorks and OES, that will run on either Windows XP or OpenOffice. So far, two thirds of all OES customers are running Linux, Messman said, but he drew the biggest applause of his speech when he announced ongoing support for the proprietary version of NetWare through to 2015.

“That’s about as close to forever as you’re going to get,” he said, adding that Novell normally supports products for about 10 years. “We believe our customer environments are heterogeneous, and we must be like them.”

Novell’s new chief technology officer, Jeff Jaffe, went into detail about Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED), which was unveiled earlier this month at the CeBit show in Germany. He said Novell has been its own best beta tester, with about 90 per cent of its employee base using it at least 50 per cent of the time. Messman, however, acknowledged there were still limitations that could keep SLED from overtaking Windows anytime soon.

“There is more work that needs to be done to close the gap between the Linux desktop and the needs of the power user,” Messman admitted. “But the open source community is working very hard to close that gap.”

Novell also announced a partnership with Dell that will see a version of ZenWorks integrated on Dell’s PowerEdge servers running either Suse or Red Hat starting next month.

BrainShare runs through Friday.


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