Novell on Tuesday released Suse Linux Enterprise 11, which includes for the first time a full runtime environment for Microsoft .NET applications.
The open-source company said the new version of the datacentre operating system shows improvements over its predecessors in terms of interoperability, mission-critical computing and virtualisation.
One of the key enhancements in Suse Linux Enterprise 11 is its Mono Extension. Mono is an open-source project that aims to create a .NET-compatible set of programming tools, including elements such as a C# compiler. According to Novell's product director for the EMEA region, Holger Dyroff, the addition of commercial support for Mono means Suse Linux Enterprise 11 users can migrate their existing .NET applications across to the Linux platform.
"We have an online tool for customers to test their .NET applications and see if they run on Mono," Dyroff told ZDNet UK on Tuesday. Microsoft's rich web media technology, Silverlight, is now also supported with the inclusion of Moonlight, the Mono project's open-source alternative to Silverlight.
Novell has overseen Mono since it bought the developer Ximian in 2003. Asked why it took so long for Novell to provide commercial support for the project, Dyroff said it had in fact provided commercial support to some customers for a while, as part of Novell's consulting work.
"We needed to be convinced that Mono was completely enterprise-ready," Dyroff said, adding that Novell also had to be sure it could provide full support for the product. "The feature set is now rich enough to run most of those .NET applications — the success rate is now above 50 percent without changes, which is a big step forward for our Mono offering. It is important that, when we make a certain promise to the customers, we need to be knowledgeable enough and sure it's really going to run."
The Mono extension is joined in the new version of the platform by the High Availability Extension, a clustering product that will, according to Dyroff, "allow customers to run their mission-critical workload in a high-availability clustered way". The benefit of this feature for Novell, he said, was that it would allow the company to further tempt the Unix market to migrate to Linux.
"Customers running [Unix platforms such as] Solaris have told us they would turn away from that Unix platform if they had a high-performance, feature-rich high-availability offering in the Suse Linux portfolio," Dyroff said. "Unix-to-Linux migration still [brings] the most common new customers into the Linux platform."
Dyroff said IBM's rumoured desire to buy Sun had been helpful for Novell, by making Sun's customers wonder "what will happen in the future with the Solaris platform, the Sparc processor and so on".
Asked whether Novell's close collaboration with Microsoft weakened Suse's position as a challenger to Windows, Dyroff claimed such co-operation made it easier for customers to adopt Linux.
"I do think that the collaboration we're having on a technical level does not in any way influence the competition we are experiencing on a business level," Dyroff said. "We are fighting hard. We are working with customers and [independent software vendors] to put [products] together that attack areas which are Microsoft strongholds."
"Customers have a need to run Microsoft Windows and Suse Linux Enterprise or other Linux offerings side-by-side," Dyroff said. "Therefore, that technical collaboration is important to be able to do seamless migration and integration, and compete on a value level rather than disappointing the customer."
Novell said in a statement on Tuesday that Suse Linux Enterprise 11 is optimised to run at "near-native" performance on major hypervisors such as VMware ESX, Microsoft Hyper-V and Xen — the new Xen 3.3 hypervisor is included in Novell's new distribution.
The distribution will also be certified and supported for Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), making it possible to run Suse-based virtual machines in the cloud.
Novell has also released ZenWorks Linux Management 7.3, a management tool for desktop and server systems. This, along with Suse Linux Enterprise Server 11, Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 and the Mono Extension, is available now.
The High Availability extension will be released in the second quarter of this year.
Novell also announced Suse Linux Enterprise JeOS (Just enough Operating System) on Tuesday, along with a set of tools that it said will allow independent software vendors to "assemble a virtual appliance with just the pieces of Suse Linux Enterprise necessary to support their specific application". That product will become available in April.
The company also said that later this year it will release updates for Suse Linux Enterprise Point of Service, Suse Linux Enterprise Real Time Extension and Suse Linux Enterprise Thin Client.