Novell fires opening shot with SuSE Linux 10

* Novell beats Red Hat to virtualization

Last week, Novell released SuSE Linux Enterprise 10, which includes SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED).

Last week, Novell released SuSE Linux Enterprise 10, which includes SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED).

SLES and SLED are available as free trial downloads from Novell's Web site. Beyond the trial period (an initial 60 days), further upgrades will require a support subscription.

Novell has greatly simplified its pricing model with support for this release starting at $50 per year for a single device for SLED, and $349 per year and up for SLES, depending on server type and support level.

SLES 10 is Novell's latest run at the enterprise server market, and it is well supported by sophisticated management tools, as well as many enterprise-strength applications and databases. SLED 10 is a strong tilt to displace Microsoft on the desktop. With the smart new GNOME user interface, it looks very usable, at least for process work such as Web activity, document creating, and e-mail.

SLES 10 is the first Linux distribution to come pre-packaged with the open source Xen virtualization platform, beating rival Red Hat by many months. This opening shot in the "next-generation" Linux war means enterprises that have been waiting to deploy Linux with bundled Xen virtualization are able to start testing now with a production version. While significant production implementation may be some time away for all but the early adopters, this definitely gives Novell a significant head start on Red Hat.

This release also signals the opening shot in a new virtualization battle, and a fundamental shift in the battleground. Novell is the first vendor to make server virtualization just another part of the operating system, with Red Hat and (eventually) Microsoft to follow. Operating system virtualization is already free, from vendors including Microsoft, VMware, and open source OpenVZ. Now server virtualization is becoming free, not just with Linux and Xen. Last week VMware announced general availability of the free VMware Server, Longhorn will include Microsoft Virtualization Server, and Microsoft last week announced interoperability of Longhorn with Xen-based Linux distributions. Regardless of environment, both server and operating system virtualization are now essentially free.

This reinforces EMA's view, detailed in the upcoming research report "Virtualization: Exposing the Intangible Enterprise," that server and operating system virtualization are quickly becoming commodities. As this happens, the battle will turn to management capabilities and application virtualization. EMA's upcoming research reveals where these battles will be fought most vigorously, but major players like Altiris, AppStream, Ardence, Citrix, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, SWsoft, Virtual Iron, VMware, XenSource, and others - all reviewed in this research - are already gearing up.

From experience as a user, a product manager, and an analyst, I am wary of beta releases, so I have not tried SuSE 10 yet. While I am also wary of x.0 releases, I will nevertheless try out SLED 10 at least (in a virtual partition, of course). Look for a future review in this newsletter, and check out EMA's Research Portal over the coming week for the release of EMA's report "Virtualization: Exposing the Intangible Enterprise."

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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