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Novell plays Casablanca in Virtualization Wars

On February 24th, Novell made an important virtualization announcement, but it wasn’t the one some of us thought it would be. Instead of announcing that it would be partnering closer with Citrix and Microsoft, Novell announced that it would be working with VMware to help ISVs (independent software vendors) build SUSE Linux Enterprise-based virtual appliances.

With the deal, ISVs using VMware Studio can get a free evaluation redistribution of SUSE Linux Enterprise-powered appliances. This, in turn, will help build virtual appliances. In addition, the companies are jointly working with ISVs to develop SUSE Linux-powered VMware Ready virtual appliances. powered by SUSE Linux Enterprise. As a result, ISVs can offer their customers a complete, out-of-the-box solution that requires minimal installation and configuration, thus significantly reducing cost and complexity.

The first of these applications will be a Zmanda back-up virtual application. According to Chander Kant, Zmanda’s CEO, “This appliance will dramatically reduce the complexity of backup operation for system administrators. By making our open source backup solutions available through a streamlined, out-of-the box distribution built on SUSE Linux Enterprise and optimized for the VMware ESX hypervisor, our engineers will need to spend less time on installation and maintenance issues and more time on product innovation and building true value for our customers.”

Novell also announced a collaboration agreement with VMware to deliver SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) as a supported and optimized guest operating system running on VMware ESX, VMware’s flagship hypervisor. In return, Novell will offer enhanced support for customers running SLES as a guest on VMware ESX. Both companies are also working with SAP to deliver support for SAP customers migrating from Unix to VMware virtualized SLES.

That, however, is only today’s story. In an interview with Markus Rex, acting senior vice president and general manager of the Novell Open Platform Solutions business unit, Rex said that, “Novell will continue to work with both Microsoft and Citrix. It’s important for Novell to be able to support Vmware, Citrix’s Xen, and Microsoft’s Hyper-V.”

In short, Novell is playing the role of Casablanca in the newly heated up virtualization wars. By being neutral, Novell hopes to do well no matter who eventually wins.

However, Xen, which is an open-source technology, remains the closest to Novell’s core software. Rex said that “Novell will continue to help develop Xen.” Rex also did not rule out using the newly free XenServer in the next edition of SLES, which is due out in the middle of the year.