Novell would be wise to embrace Xen and KVM -- but only if the company has adequate resources to support both sets of customers.
The Waltham, Mass. company is the second biggest Linux distributor and supporting both open source hypervisors would give it a significant differentiator over its key rival, Red Hat, which announced that it will back KVM as its strategic hypervisor over the long haul.
It's just not clear yet what Novell's intentions over the long term will be.
Novell has incorporated Xen for some time in its Linux distribution and is a key contributor and member of the Xen project. Yet more recently, Novell introduced a preview of KVM in its version 11 distribution and announced plans to offer full support someday. The company is also sponsoring a KVM performance hypervisor project called AlacrityVM.
Does this mean that Novell, like Red Hat, intends to abandon Xen over the long term?
Is the company simply hedging its bets by supporting both open source hypervisors until the clear "winner" is established?
Some wonder if Novell's recently announced partnership with Xen sponsor Citrix and its KVM support are at cross purposes, or if there is an internal war going on at Novell over which hypervisor to support.
Simon Crosby, a longtime Xen executive who is now CTO of Citrix's data center and cloud, is confident that Novell will remain committed to Xen.
Citrix bought XenSource, the first commercial spinoff of the Xen Project. Citrix has always been a very close Microsoft partner and works very closely with Microsoft on Xen and hyper-V interoperability. Now it is warming up to Novell. No surprise there.
Crosby said in a recent blog it makes perfect sense that Novell is supporting both Xen and KVM and the hoopla in the media about Novell's KVM commitments is unfounded.
"Novell SUSE Linux is, after all an enterprise Linux distribution. And KVM is just a kernel.org driver that comes with mainline Linux. So it's logical to expect Novell's customers to be aware of KVM and to expect them to ship and support it - like any other mainline feature," Crosby said.
"Novell is also behind an interesting open source project (that is not part of SLE), AlacrityVM, that aims to improve KVM performance and to feed back those changes to mainline Linux. It's not another hypervisor, but a way to help improve KVM," Crosby said.
Crosby was also quick to point out that Novell's support for Xen is srengthening -- not waning. Red Hat announced it would continue to support Xen only until 2014.
"As important as their support for Xen, is their support for SLES on Xen," Crosby said. "Citrix and Novell announced a partnership in which Novell will offer full Support on XenServer for SLES and more than 4,500 enterprise applications certified as Novell Ready on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Importantly, SLES as a guest is hypervisor agnostic and Novell offers support for SLE also on Hyper-V and VMware. Citrix and its partners will gain access to the PlateSpin portfolio to help customers become more effective in their virtualization deployments."
Supporting both open source hypervisors would be a win-win for Novell, but only if the company has the resources to support both platforms. Time will tell if that is the plan.