Novell denies 'unstable' Xen claims

A clarification was made to this story. Read below for details.
Written by Steven Deare, Contributor

A clarification was made to this story. Read below for details.

The chief technology officer (CTO) of Novell's Open Platform Solutions Group, Markus Rex, has hit back at criticism the company included an "unstable" Xen virtualisation environment in its new Linux server, pointing to support from hardware partners.
Markus Rex, Novell CTO, Open Platform Solutions Group

At Novell's Sydney office on Thursday, Rex responded to claims by Linux competitor Red Hat that Xen was not stable enough to be deployed in enterprise environments. Novell has claimed to be the first vendor to include Xen in its Linux distribution, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Xen, primarily developed by US-based start-up XenSource, allows users to run multiple operating systems as guest virtual machines on the same hardware.

"If you look at the Xen open source project, we have been the number two contributor during the past 10 months or so to that project. So we've kind of contributed most of the enterprise readiness for the Xen platform," Rex said.

Red Hat only had to look at Novell's launch of its new server for testimony that Xen was enterprise ready, according to Rex.

"We had all the major hardware partners that had virtualisation hardware like IBM, Intel and AMD. They all stood up and said 'Yes, this technology's ready, and we fully support deployments based on Xen and in combination with SUSE Linux Enterprise 10'."

"So I guess the other vendors would not do that if it weren't ready."

Novell had a track record of being the first to expand the Linux platform, while competitors had often claimed the additions weren't ready, he said.

"It's up to each vendor on when to include certain technologies," Rex said.

"We always have been very much on the forefront of technology, so I think it's just fitting that we have been the first ones to integrate Xen."

However, despite its self-proclaimed pace-setter status, Novell has not yet completed rolling out Linux desktops to all its employees. The vendor announced the plans over two years ago.

Rex said the rollout was "still an ongoing process", but that the company was on track with its two year old goals.

"The whole company has been using OpenOffice now for about a year, roughly.

"[This] was the far more painful transition than [changing] the actual underlying operating system because it's the day to day application that you use and it touches all your file formats and everything."

Novell had "80 something percent" of its people with Linux on their desktops, Rex said.

The rollout in Novell China was complete; "most of" Novell Germany was done, and "virtually all" of Novell's technical teams around the world ran Linux on the desktop, he said.

Some Novell staff would still use Windows in addition to Linux on the desktop for certain functions, such as software development, said Rex.

Novell executives also downplayed the recent replacement of the company's chief executive and chief financial officers.

"There have been a couple of different phases inside Novell," said Rex.

"And each of the different phases had its unique needs."

Novell turned to Linux-based software when it completed the acquisition of SUSE Linux in 2004.

"Now we've reached the next phase. And each of the phases have different people doing the key decisions," said Rex.

"I've been involved with all three phases and I've worked with all three groups of people.

"It was not necessarily so much different ... it's like a constant evolving.

"Whether it's better off or worse off [without former CEO Jack Messman], this is something I cannot really say."

Messman was replaced by Ron Hovsepian, formerly Novell's chief operating officer.


Clarification: The story has been updated to clarify that Markus Rex is the CTO of Novell's Open Platform Solutions Group rather than CTO of the company as originally stated.
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