Bonum Certa Men Certa

First Fruit of Novell's (Known) Microsoft Patent License?

Novell has announced that, sometime in July, they will be releasing a "Virtual Machine Driver Pack" which will deliver improved performance of Microsoft Windows (and eventually Red Hat Enterprise Linux - "later this summer") on the Xen Hypervisor in SUSE.

In November, Microsoft and Novell entered into a controversial partnership where Microsoft would offer sales support for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and both companies would work to simplify running the Windows operating system and SUSE Linux in mixed operating system environments. One of those projects, according to Novell senior Linux applications specialist Ross Brunson, was the creation of a "translation layer" that would allow interoperability between various hypervisor technologies.

"One interesting aspect is that Novell is using these [virtualization] capabilities to charge some extra money. SUSE Linux has tended to have more of a flat pricing structure than Red Hat in the past," Haff said. "But this makes sense; the alternative is a product like VMware that certainly doesn't come for free."


It is interesting that Novell is delivering the Windows Driver Pack first, I would assume that creating a driver for an open-source operating system would be easier, but I suppose that it was important to justify not only the licensing of Microsoft's Hypercall API patents, but also the price tag on the Virtual Machine Driver Pack. Red Hat EL support will be added later at no additional charge as a maintenance update.

I had been interested to see what the license terms will be on Novell's shim, or "translation layer" if you like, Stafford Masie had indicated that VMWare was certainly a competitive target of the Microvell deal, but it was promised that Novell would compete in an "open source way":
(a paragraph or two before it cuts off.) …virtualization is very very key, customers want to utilize Linux as either a host operating system with Microsoft as a guest operating system, or vice versa, and yes we are going to support the XEN technology there, the XEN hypervisor technology, Microsoft is going to support it too. Yes, there is a competitive angle there, yes we’re coming at VMware yes yes yes we are, ok thats part of it because but we’re doing it in an open source way, so were going to support the XEN technologies in our server platforms and togther collaborate and ensure it works properly, supported properly, etc


So, will we be able to see these Virtual Machine Drivers for Windows on Xen available to other distributions and the overall community without veiled patent threats? Or, is it virtualization and interoperability only for those willing to pay a patent tax? Early reports indicated that the MS drivers will be under a proprietary license.

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