Microsoft-Novell partnership yields virtualization bundle

Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server will run as a guest operating system on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V.

Microsoft and Novell Thursday released a virtualization bundle that represents the pair's first fully supported joint product since their historic interoperability partnership was forged in 2006.

The two have configured and optimized Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to run as a guest operating system on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. The product is the first to include technology developed by both vendors at the Microsoft and Novell Interoperability Lab they opened just over a year ago in Cambridge, US.

Dell has said it will offer a blade server running the Linux-Windows virtualization software, and is just one of a number of channel partners stepping up to offer support. The others are systems integrators Computer Integrated Services Company of New York, Continental Resources, Insight, Total Tec Systems, and China-based 21Vianet.

Microsoft and Novell opened their Windows-Linux interoperability lab in September 2007 with an initial focus on three projects: virtualization, management and identity federation. The lab was one part of their 2006 partnership agreement.

Experts say user interest in integration of virtualization wares is growing, but actual use is far from a tidal wave.

"I think it is still too soon in terms of this [interoperability work] getting out to customers," says Jay Lyman, an analyst with the 451 Group. He doesn't doubt that Microsoft and Novell are responding to user needs, because he sees that most users have mixed environments. The vendors, he says, are ahead of the curve, however.

On some level, the vendors agree.

At a virtualization launch event Sept. 8, Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft's server and tools business, said, "It is still early days. Only about 12% of servers are virtualized." He also said that Microsoft foresees a future world where virtualization is the norm: "It will be used across all the servers and desktops in a business," he said.

Analyst Lyman would like to see a few more case studies now. "We would be interested to hear a bit more about the demand and how it is transferring to the mainstream market," he says. "We continue to ask who these customers are and what is driving their demand."

Microsoft last month said "customer demand" was driving it to spend as much as another $100 million to purchase certificates it will distribute to users, who can cash them in for support on their Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Servers. The partners involved in supporting the pair's new virtualization bundle will help distribute those certificates.

The investment, which will come on Nov. 1, is on top of the $240 million Microsoft agreed in 2006 to spend on certificates as part of a five-year business and technology deal with Novell that also included intellectual property rights protection.

The two vendors claim the $100 million investment is needed to meet customer demand to integrate Linux and Windows. Novell has invoiced $156 million of Microsoft's original $240 million certificate purchase, leaving 35% of the funds still unused.

The original $240 million deal, which raised the ire of the open source community, covered the distribution of 70,000 certificates for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server maintenance and support.

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John Fontana

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