Novell details modular infrastructure plan

New technology strategy designed to help companies run more adaptive infrastructure, align it with system management, virtualization, identity

Novell Monday laid out a technical strategy that would let users mix and match physical and virtual machines along with management tools, identity services, collaboration software, and open source operating systems.

The company said its new strategy, which it has code-named Fossa, would include new enhancements to its virtualization, Linux, orchestration, policy, identity, compliance, and collaboration tools.

"Enterprise computing will change and we will be at the center of it," Novell's CTO, Jeff Jaffe, said during the opening keynote of the company's annual Brainshare conference. He said the key word would be "agility," which he said would be defined in large part by policy and identity enablement within the Novell infrastructure software stack.

Jaffe drew a laugh from the roughly 5500 attendees when he said Fossa stood for "free and open source software plus agility."

Novell also said it would begin development on SuSE Linux 11, including alignment with its agility vision. Novell said SuSE Linux Enterprise 11 would also include the latest virtualization technology and desktop improvements. Novell said it also would rely heavily on work from the openSuSE community.

Novell also announced a partnership to optimize SAP on SuSE Linux Enterprise and with Novell's virtualization and identity platforms. The companies also will optimize Novell's OS for SAP's data center infrastructure.

Novell's Fossa, however, is a way for Novell to rationalize how all its infrastructure tools, from Linux to ZENworks, fit together into what can be thought of conceptually as a single architecture.

The development of flexible, adaptable infrastructure certainly is not revolutionary as vendors such as HP, IBM and Microsoft have been working toward that goal for several years.

"The question is what is fundamentally different from what Novell wants to do with Fossa over what they are doing today," said Mark Levitt, an analyst with IDC. "This feels more like an internal review of their vision and roadmap and I don't think Fossa will be a dramatic change but a validation of the direction they have been going."

Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian said Novell would focus on optimizing its toolset for its desktop and servers and integrating that into the larger dynamic IT platforms being developed by IBM and Microsoft.

"We see ourselves as a component in these big frameworks, complementing their border strategies," said Hovsepian. "We see gaps that need to be filled."

He stressed that Novell is focused on corporate infrastructure.

"Business is changing and you need the ability to shift and do it in a cost containing way," said an IT manager from a large health care company who asked that his name not be used. "And when you make those shifts the results can't be inferior to what you were doing before." The IT manager said of Fossa, "this is the kind of stuff we want to be using."

At Fossa's core, Novell wants to use the modular capabilities of Linux to create what it called Physical Distributions -- Distros for short -- which in essence are host operating systems running on server hardware. The other piece are Virtual Distros, which would include a virtualized guest OS, either Windows or Linux, along with middleware and an application.

The Virtual Distros would include all the standards to hook into Novell's management, identity and compliance systems.

ISV's would be able to bundle their applications into Virtual Distros that users could deploy within their architecture.

The Virtual Distros could be stored on a server, copied at will and deployed on demand. Users would be able to dynamically deploy Virtual Distros when they need an increase in capacity.

When those Virtual Distros are deployed meta-data associated with their architecture would be used to plug into management systems and identity systems.

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John Fontana

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