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Novell readies “virtual machine driver pack”


Novell Inc. claims it will become the first vendor to offer a supported solution for Xen virtual machine guests, with its release next month of the SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack.

This is a bundle of Xen-compatible paravirtualized network, bus, and block device drivers said to enable unmodified Windows and Linux guest operating systems to run on SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) 10 SP1 and Xen 3.0.4 with near-native performance in virtual environments on systems with Intel Virtualization Technology (Intel VT) and AMD Virtualization (AMD-V) chipsets.

It does this by opening additional channels of communication between the Xen hypervisor in SUSE Linux Enterprise and the unmodified guest operating systems running in a virtual environment, accelerating network and storage input/output and improving overall efficiency.

In recent months, virtualization has become hot in Linux circles. Besides advancements in Xen, the Linux kernel, as of version 2.6.20, includes its own built-in virtualization, KVM (kernel-basd virtual machine).

Some of this improved virtualization technology is now available for both the desktop, SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop), as well as the server, SLES. Novell’s Xen can run unmodified Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2000, Windows XP, Vista, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4/5 as clients, according to Novell. VMware virtualization products are also supported on SLED, both as host and as guest, including VMware Workstation, Server, and Player.

The Driver Pack contains paravirtualized network, bus, and block device drivers for Windows Server 2003 (32 bit and 64 bit), Windows 2000 (32 bit) and Windows XP (32 bit and 64 bit).

Paravirtualized drivers for SLES 9 SP3 will be available later in 2007, Novell said. Similar device drivers for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 will are expected to be available in the second half of 2007. Both the Red Hat and Novell drivers will be delivered as free updates to the Virtual Machine Driver Pack via Novell Customer Center.

The paravirtualized drivers for Windows in the Driver Pack are currently distributed under a proprietary license. The paravirtualized drivers for SUSE Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, on the other hand, will be distributed under an open-source license.

The Virtual Machine Driver Pack will ship in July, according to Novell. A one-year subscription will be priced at $299 per physical server for up to four virtual machines, or $699 per physical server for unlimited virtual machines. Xen drivers for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server are already available and ship as part of the SUSE Linux Enterprise distribution.

A version of this story was first published in Linux-Watch

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