Novell intros SuSE Enterprise Linux 11, with Windows and data center support

At the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) in San Francisco today, Novell is releasing the final version of SuSE Enterpise Linux 11, its first set of Linux software products to be based on the Linux 2.6.27 kernel.

Aside from Enterprise Server 11 and Enterprise Desktop 11, two operating systems that run on x86 PC hardware, the release includes three other products: Mono Extension, for Windows application support; High Availability (HA) Extension, for server cluster management; and the mainframe-based Enterprise Server for System z.

Data center enhancements built directly into SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) include the Xen 3.1.1 hypervisor, for virtualization; a new Swap over NFS capability for remote storage; and new control groups and CPUset features for more fine-grained management of CPU, memory, storage, and networking resources.

With the addition of the Xen hypervisor, administrators can now use SLES as their major virtualization tool instead of relying on tools from other vendors such as Microsoft's Hyper-V or VMware's ESX Server. SLES 11, however, does not add support for the KVM hypervisor, which is controlled by Novell's chief Linux rival, Red Hat.

On the desktop side, Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 11 includes upgraded versions of all desktop applications and broader multimedia file support, enabling playback of Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) files in addition to the previously supported MP3.

Also, through Novell's still controversial interoperability pact with Microsoft, the latest desktop product adds built-in support for Microsoft Silverlight and Windows Media Audio (WMA) and Windows Media Video (WMV) files.

Desktop applications bundled with SLED 11 include version 3; Mozilla Firefox version 3, and the latest edition of Novell Evolution for e-mail and calendaring.

Novell's new HA Extension features Pacemaker, a new highly scalable cluster resource manager with a flexible policy manager supporting virtual environments and n-node clusters. Also included are resource agents for numerous applications and OpenAIS support for clustering messaging and membership.

Enterprise Server 11 for System z adds the ability for System z core dumps to be analyzed on x86 PC servers, a move meant to lower costs to customers by eliminating the need to use a duplicate System z mainframe for analysis.

On the server side, the latest Mono extension is designed to let corporate developers and ISVs run Windows .NET applications on SuSE Linux servers and host ASP.NET 2.0 and ASP.NET AJAX-enabled applications on Linux-based Apache Web servers.

Under development since 2003, the Mono environment is aimed at increasing interoperability between .NET applications written in C# with Linux and Unix applications based on Java and other programming languages by exposing underlying .NET functionality to these applications.

The inclusion of Mono represents the first time it's been included in a commercial Linux release, even though some developers have been clamoring for Novell to support Mono in SuSE Linux ever since the company's buyout of Ximian, the force behind the Mono development project.

"Why isn't Mono part of the SuSE distro, since Novell owns Ximian and SuSE?" wrote one user in a SuSE online discussion group, way back in April of 2004.

Another user suggested two reasons: software immaturity at that time, and patent questions. "1. Mono at this point is evolving rapidly. New releases are frequent, and it is not uncommon for dependencies to change from version to version as development progresses," he responded.

"2. Patent issues. There are still some legal questions clouding certain aspects of Mono. Novell is supposed to do a patent review of Mono before the 1.0 release (some time this year). That should take care of that."

Meanwhile, however, the interoperability pact between Novell and Microsoft, which stunned the industry upon its announcement in November 2006, included a patents covenant, along with agreements between the two vendors around licensing, support, and joint R&D. Under the covenant, Microsoft became unable to sue Novell's customers for infringements on Microsoft's patents, and Novell was likewise prohibited from suing Microsoft's customers for infringements on Novell's patents.

The deal also included provisions for hundreds of millions of dollars to change hands between the vendors over the subsequent three years around software licensing and patent protection, with a net balance of $118 million earmarked for Novell.

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