Novell, Red Hat eye virtualization for Linux

Novell last week said it will soon detail plans to include server virtualization technology in its SUSE Linux operating system. Red Hat intends to do the same thing with its Linux distribution, and a leading contender for both vendors may be an open-source virtualization technology called Xen.

Both Red Hat and Novell said they're also looking at a number of other virtualization technologies. Novell, for instance, is eyeing start-up Katana Technology's promised virtualization software, which is expected to run on Linux machines. Beyond that, all Novell will say is that it plans to act quickly. "We want to be aggressive about it," said Ed Anderson, vice president of marketing at Novell.

Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices are already working with Xen, according to officials at each of those companies. Intel and AMD are particularly interested in ensuring that Xen works well with their chip-partitioning technologies, which are due out next year.

Xen is available for download from the Web site of the University of Cambridge in England, where the 3-year-old open-source effort is based. The creators of Xen plan to open a company called XenSource, within the next few weeks to support users of the technology.

Waiting for acceptance

But corporate users may not embrace Xen until mainstream IT vendors back the technology.

That's the case for Bob Armstrong, director of technical services at Delaware North Cos., a hospitality services provider. Armstrong uses VMware's virtualization software to run 19 guest operating systems on two production servers, each with two CPUs. He has virtualized about 25 percent of his data center and plans to increase that to about half of his systems over the next 18 months.

Armstrong said the technology from VMware, which is a division of EMC, has allowed him to cut hardware spending by one-third. He also uses NetWare servers and will look at Novell's virtualization technology. "Anywhere we can leverage our Novell investment, we would love to do that," Armstrong said. "If we weren't a Novell shop, we wouldn't consider it."

Xen supports Linux but not Windows, which means it's unlikely to be adopted by Carmine Iannace, manager of IT architecture at Welch Foods. Iannace is running VMware environments that support Windows, Linux and Solaris. "We want to have the ability to run Windows, Solaris and Linux on the same server, and we really haven't found anyone else who can provide that for us," he said.

But Iannace added that the emergence of Linux vendors will increase competition in the virtualization market and help corporate users "by keeping a check on prices."

Xen doesn't support Windows because it requires a modification to the operating system kernel. However, Intel's planned chip-partitioning technology and a similar offering due from AMD are expected to allow Windows to run in a virtualized environment without modifications.

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