Novell offers virtual machine driver pack

Novell offers virtual machine driver pack

Summary: A few days ago, Novell announced that the first service pack (SP1) for SUSE® Linux Enterprise 10 was available to its customers. Here's a pointer to their Website.


A few days ago, Novell announced that the first service pack (SP1) for SUSE® Linux Enterprise 10 was available to its customers. Here's a pointer to their Website.

What's new? Novell mentions enhancements in virtualization, high-performance computing, security, interoperability and system management. What caught my eye while reading through the announcement was that Novell was making the SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack available. The SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack is described as "a bundle of paravirtualized network, bus and block device drivers that enable unmodified Windows* and Linux* guest operating systems to run with near native performance in virtual environments created with the Xen* hypervisor technology integrated in SUSE Linux Enterprise and Intel* Virtualization Technology and AMD* Virtualization hardware."

Whoa big fella! Is this really something new?

Didn't XenSource announce the same thing a while back and make it available as part of XenSource's XenSource Enterprise? Here's a pointer to the announcement of XenEnterprise 3.2. Here's a snippet from the XenSource Website that highlights one of my many sources of confusion:

<Snip> Key Product Features:

  • Enterprise Ready Performance
  • Installs on bare metal x86 hardware for peak performance
  • Minimal software footprint dedicated to running virtual machines
  • Built to fully leverage Intel® and AMD virtualization technology for near native speed
  • XenSource Tools provide high speed I/O for enhanced disk and network performance
  • Multi-processor guest support delivers scalable performance to server workloads
  • Simple Deployment and Installation

Quick and easy installation

  • Rapid deployment with simple CD and network based installers
  • Leverages standard Linux device drivers for the broadest hardware support of any bare metal virtualization platform
  • Supports wide variety of local storage including IDE, SATA, SCSI, SAS and more
  • Supports Fiber Channel based SANs with boot from SAN for diskless blades
  • Supports iSCSI based SANs

<end snip>

<Bolding is mine>

I'm sure that you'll notice that XenSource points out that they're offering drivers for enhanced disk and network performance, multi-processor guests, etc.

Is this a case of competition between Novell and  the community that provided the technology Novell is using in SUSE Linux Enterprise 10? Does Novell have an agreement with XenSource and didn't bother to mention the (Xen)Source of these drivers?

If Novell developed these drivers, we need to see when and if Novell will contribute these drivers to the Linux and Xen community efforts. If this is a competition between Novell and XenSource? If so, does the community lose? What's your opinion?

Topics: Open Source, Software, Virtualization


Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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  • Clarification from Novell

    A clarification from Holger Dyroff, vp of SUSE Linux product management at Novell...

    The SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack includes two sets of drivers --one set of drivers for Linux systems and another set of drivers for Windows operating systems. All of the drivers are supported by Novell when you purchase a subscription to the VM Driver Pack.

    The Linux drivers come from the Xen open source project and enable you to run both Red Hat Enterprise Linux guests and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server guests. Like any distribution, we package them in a way that fits our distribution's needs. In this case, they need to be compatible with the version of Xen we are shipping. But they are available to the community in the same manner as any other piece of open source code. The Windows drivers have a proprietary license, although you can use them for them free during a 60-day evaluation period. (BTW - XenSource Windows drivers are also proprietary.) The Windows Drivers Development Kit (DDK) prohibits drivers built and linked against Microsoft DDK components from being open source. We therefore must ship our own proprietary version.

    The drivers in the SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack are different from the drivers that XenSource ships, although both drivers offer similar functionality. Neither the SUSE drivers nor the XenSource drivers are identical with what's being developed in the Xen community. The Xen community develops open source code, and companies such as IBM, Intel, HP,AMD, Novell and XenSource are all contributors to that community. (In fact, Novell has made by far more contributions to the Xen project for x86 and x86 64-bit architecture than any other Linux distributor.) Companies like Novell and XenSource take the open source code from the Xen project and then develop differentiated open source drivers, in much the same way that Novell and Red Hat both take the Linux kernel, and develop differentiated open source distributions.
    • Thanks for the input!

      Thanks for the clarification. That's great information.

      Dan K