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Will SLES Make Virtualization Ubiquitous?

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Mar 25, 2009


In fictional realms, change can happen in the flip of a page. In marketing campaigns, a similar paradigm shift is sought. Virtually Speaking: SLES 11 is designed to be everywhere, but with equal weight being given to the physical, the virtual and the cloud, is it virtualization that is becoming 'ubiquitous'? Also, Kace releases Virtual Kontainers, a virtual appliance to simplify app distribution management.

Rarely do events unfold this way in the real world, however. It's often the subtle changes that go unnoticed until we realize in hindsight that they were actually indicative of shifting winds.

It's becoming increasingly clear that this shift is coming — if it hasn't already — to the virtualization market. This week, two unrelated announcements, one of which didn't have a whole lot to do with virtualization on the surface, got me thinking.

Is the ultimate badge of a technology's maturity that it be integrated so deeply into a product that it becomes just another item in the checklist?

On Tuesday, Novell released version 11 of Suse Linux Enterprise Server. Key feature improvements are enterprise Mono support (.NET on Linux), high availability enhancements and a streamlined operating system build geared toward appliance vendors.

Even more significantly, is SLES 11's shift in focus. As virtualization has gained ground, vendors and analysts alike have been eulogizing the operating system. It appears Novell is among the first to take the message seriously.

With SLES it is offering "a baseline image so software vendors can easily build appliances. The concept is something know as a JeOS (Just enough Operating System) and has been trumpeted by Novell as the future of operating systems," InternetNews.com reports

Even more revealing is Vice President of Solution and Product Marketing Justin Steinman's comment to InternetNews.com, "We designed SLES 11 to be ubiquitous, to run in physical, virtual and cloud models."

This approach is very different from the one that its chief competitor, Red Hat, is taking. Last month, Red Hat released a stand-alone virtualization hypervisor based on KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) as well as a new hypervisor for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. It also unveiled Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager for Servers, an open source virtualization management suite to facilitate fully integrated management across virtual servers and desktops.

Red Hat is in many ways hedging its bets, updating its operating system as well as releasing its own hypervisor. Let's face it, though, there are three hypervisors out the that merit consideration. One is currently well-entrenched. The second will soon to be breathing down the first one's neck. A third is grabbing for the open source crowd while simultaneously aligning itself with the up and coming hypervisor. And this is all occurring in a commoditized market, no less.

Is adding to this mix really the most effective strategy?

Novell's solution is interesting. It is certainly a step in a direction toward a new model for the operating system. However, also bears mentioning that Novell, unlike Red Hat, has a portfolio that extends beyond the operating system. Moreover, its acquisition of PlateSpin last fall brought virtualization management tools into the mix.

At the other side of the spectrum from the traditional operating system/application model are appliances. Not surprisingly, virtual appliances are getting their due as they attempt to make virtualization within reach for those whom it wasn't before.

On Tuesday, KACE introduced Virtual Kontainers, a module for its system management appliance that also ships as a virtual appliance. It is designed to simplify application distribution and management. Like other KACE offerings, the product uses a single, integrated Web-based console.

Lubos Parobek, vice president of product management, described it to ServerWatch as "analogous to ThinApp, AppV or xenico's application virtualization technology."

Virtual Kontainers feature application isolation, simple and fully automated creation, centralized appliance-based management, and active metering and control. This is KACE's first application virtualization offering, and the technology stems from its recent acquisition of Computers in Motion

Virtual Kontainers will be generally available in April.

What does this have in common with SLES? Absolutely nothing on the surface. From a trend perspective, however, it says a lot. Virtualization is accepted. Remember how revolutionary and "game changing" open source was a decade ago? Remember how at one time it was sold or decried on that characteristic alone. That watershed day is coming fast for virtualization, and we likely will not know it's happened until it's passed.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is coauthoring a book about virtualization that is scheduled for publication in September 2009.

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