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Novell’s Big Open Source Test (and Chance)

Posted in Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Servers, Tivoization at 10:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell’s virtualisation agreement with Microsoft has been controversial for a variety of reasons. Among those reasons is Novell’s willingness to make GNU/Linux secondary to Windows in the datacentre. Consider this old interview.

In an interview with Computerworld, Ron Hovsepian gives some background on the genesis and workings of the Microsoft-Novell deal. Hovsepian states that the deal began in search of virtualization, and that initially Microsoft’s position was that Linux could be virtualized within Windows, but not Windows within Linux.

Later on, Novell indicated that its special ‘deal’ with Microsoft brought it what others were already able to achieve without a deal. Then arose the suspicion that Microsoft might use virtualisation as a bargaining card (or extortion) to have more companies sign patent deals. Recall what Shane said at the time. Here is where a news article fits in. On the face of it, Novell and Microsoft will shortly introduce a shim.

In particular, there is some work going on to support paravirtualized drivers for Windows guest machines running on SUSE. Having this in place would allow Windows guests to run on SUSE Linux without needing to go through an emulation layer, thereby improving performance. I’m going to be particularly interested in hearing how these drivers will be licensed, as my suspicion is that they will end up needing to be open sourced, which will make them available to everyone, not just Novell customers.

This is Novell’s chance to show that it doesn’t work in isolation. We previously criticised licensing that accompanies this work. Is Novell a mixed source company or is it truly stuck in its proprietary roots? We shall soon find out.

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  1. ohmygod said,

    July 31, 2007 at 12:10 am


    Isnt this totally lame? I mean, all great virtual machines don’t really do hardware emulation after installing the drivers correctly…

  2. Sebastiaan Veld said,

    July 31, 2007 at 2:51 am


    If you did some homework, and I think you already know this, the drivers are already for download here http://download.novell.com/Download?buildid=1hw8rIc4fwM~

    And no, the Windows drivers are not for free as a recent announcement of Novell states here http://www.novell.com/news/press/novell-ships-suse-linux-enterprise-10-service-pack-1-and-new-virtual-machine-driver-pack/

    As the optimized Xen drivers for Windows are developed in cooperation with Microsoft they cannot (or are not allowed to be) open sourced. But as a Linux only user one would not be interested in such drivers so you do not have to spend money on something you do not need. I suggest that is also the reason the drivers pack is a separate offering, not every SLES user will use their server for virtualising Windows. This is the way to track who does, adn as you do not want a lame Virtual Windows server after every patch Tuesday, there’s driver maintenance included. Btw XenSource also for this reason has an agreement with Microsoft for a) the drivers and b) Microsoft allowing Windows to be run virtual using XenSource products. The fact that things -can- be done does not mean it is allowed by Microsoft, that also goes for VMware.

    ‘Among those reasons is Novell’s willingness to make GNU/Linux secondary to Windows in the datacentre.’
    I do not see what’s bad in that, there seem to be customers that need it. If I do run VMware server on my Windows workstation and make a virtual machine running Linux, that would be the exact same thing. Are we now going to boycott VMWare for having -that ability-?

    So, it’s still a mixed source company, having both open source and closed source solutions. As there is a clear reason why the Xen drivers for Windows are not open sourced and not for free that does not make Novell ‘stuck in it’s proprietary roots’. Think this is as Novell states it about choise.

  3. Stephen said,

    July 31, 2007 at 3:50 am


    I certainly don’t see any evidence of Novell making Linux second place to Windows in the data center. On the contrary, Novell is keen to replace the Windows on-bare-metal to Windows on SUSE Linux Enterprise instead. This is simply recognition of the stronghold that Windows has in many of the data centers out there.

    The drivers themselves are “pay for” and “proprietary” and can’t be opensourced because they were developed with the Microsoft DDK and the licensing minefield therein. Of course, for a pure linux shop it’s a moot point because these drivers are of no use to you unless you already have the license for Windows.

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