Novell updates Suse virtualisation

First service pack tweaks Suse Linux Enterprise 10 features, while virtualisation bundle promises wider support

Novell on Monday released the first substantial update to its flagship Linux server software, Suse Linux Enterprise 10, with tweaks in virtualisation, high-performance computing, security and other features.

The company also announced a set of drivers allowing various virtualised operating systems to run unmodified under the Xen hypervisor, which is integrated with Suse, at near-native performance. Novell said it is the first company to offer a supported system for Xen virtual machine (VM) guests.

Virtualisation allows several operating system instances to run at the same time on a single hardware platform. Open-source vendors such as Novell and Red Hat have been using Xen and other open-source technologies, including the more recent Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) to compete with established vendors such as VMware.

Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Suse Linux Enterprise 10 is a major update to the operating system, according to Novell, updating features such as virtualisation support and management, high-availability storage infrastructure and security.

It includes tweaks for the support of new processor technologies, such as quad-core Intel Xeon and AMD Opteron processors. The service pack updates the desktop user interface and desktop integration features for enterprise environments.

Novell has also included a preview for desktop virtualisation and expanded support for the application suite.

The Suse Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack, announced on Monday, is a bundle of drivers for network, bus and block devices, allowing various versions of Windows and Linux to run at near-native performance as virtual machines in a Xen/Suse environment.

Suse users already get Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) drivers along with Suse, allowing them to run virtualised Suse instances, but the driver pack will support a wider range of guests.

The driver bundle for Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 will ship in July, while those handling Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 4 and 5 will appear later in the summer.

Users will pay an annual $299 (£152) subscription per physical server for up to four virtual machines, or $699 (£352) per physical server for unlimited Virtual machines.

Paravirtualisation, the virtualisation method used by Xen, allows for higher performance than full virtualisation, but can require modification of the guest operating system. Newer hardware from Intel and AMD with built-in virtualisation support means guest OSs don't need to be modified.

Last week Microsoft launched the updated version of its virtualisation platform, Virtual Server 2005 Release 2 SP1, with improvements to backup and disaster recovery, including "volume shadowing", which allows for virtual machines to be backed up more easily.

The release added support for Suse and Solaris 10, which can be used as host operating systems.