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Welcome Novell’s “SUSE Linux Kernel”

Posted in Kernel, Microsoft, SLES/SLED, Standard, Virtualisation, Windows, Xen at 1:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There’s GNU/Linux and then there’s Novell’s own ‘special’ Linux

Whatever the future of computing has in store, it becomes abundantly clear that virtualisation is an integral part of it, particularly on the server side. Microsoft and Novell have been preparing for this by building an alliance that quite systematically excludes all their rivals, including Novell's Linux 'siblings'. Remember: “Novell and Microsoft” typically come before “Novell and GNU/Linux”.

In a new article from ZDNet Asia, Novell sheds some light on virtualisation, characterising it as the way forward.

Developments in virtualization technology are helping to assuage fear and uncertainty around the implementation of such projects, so users have less to risk now, says a Novell executive.

You are reminded that Xen is, in some ways, a captive of Microsoft as of late. The following new article from Microsoft’s pet press reminds us again how Novell leaves its siblings out in the cold.

Currently, SuSE Linux Enterprise is the only Xen hypervisor on which Microsoft will provide full support for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003 running as a virtual guest.

We wrote about this very recently. Now comes some similar news about VMWare. Here is the opening paragraph from the press release:

Novell(R) announced today it is collaborating with VMware to improve Linux performance in VMware environments by incorporating support for the VMware Virtual Machine Interface (VMI) into the SUSE(R) Linux Enterprise kernel. Demonstrating their commitment to provide open interoperability and optimization for virtualized environments, the companies have worked together to optimize SUSE Linux Enterprise for the VMware platform.

What is “SUSE(R) Linux Enterprise kernel”?

Some articles were later published to explain this in human-readable and hype-free terms. Here it is the first such article.

Waltham, Mass.-based Novell Inc. has added support for VMware Inc.’s Virtual Machine Interface (VMI) to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 10 SP2, which Novell says will make SUSE run faster on VMware’s ESX hypervisor.

Here is another article.

Novell Monday released updates to its Suse Linux kernel designed to make the operating system more efficient when running on top of VMware environments.

The upgrade to the Suse Linux Enterprise kernel lets it take advantage of paravirtualization techniques so it runs more efficiently as a guest operating system. Specifically, Novell has built in support for VMware’s Virtual Machine Interface (VMI).”The patch to the kernel provides increased performance and better interoperability,” says Carlos Montero-Luque, vice president of product management for open platform solutions at Novell.

What is this “Suse Linux kernel”? What ever happen to upstreaming?

This conundrum is further complicated by the following new report. Citrix (Xen) and Microsoft are working against standards again (or an attempt to establish some consistency). They are working against VMWare.

VMI was a proposed standard put forth by VMware in 2005 as a means of presenting paravirtualized guests to their hypervisors, with the idea that a single binary version of an operating system would be able to run on raw iron or VMI-compliant hypervisors. So far, it has not become the standard that VMware had hoped, but that is because the Xen hypervisor project, run by Citrix Systems these days, and Hyper-V, a Xen-alike hypervisor created by Microsoft Windows Server 2008, have their own ways of doing things.

You can hopefully see what is happening here. For further analysis see [1, 2].

Linux gives blood to Novell

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  1. Michael said,

    June 18, 2008 at 9:00 pm


    “upstreaming” never really existed. If they have any patches that are worth it they might be used by other vendors, but they are unlikely too because then they would have to maintain them too. BTW almost every distribution adds patches which may not be in the kernel.org kernel, to try and tweak the system for their purpose. It goes for every package. Debian always patched Evolution when they packaged it, but never sent the patches to the maintainers (even if most of them weren’t suitable – e.g. rebranding).

    I don’t know about the others but with Novell you could never re-compile your kernel and still get any of the support you paid for – if you bought it in the first place. It sort of voids your warrantee (I can’t remember the specifics, and maybe i read it wrong). This rubbed me up the wrong way when I worked there – they’re effectively restricting the freedom of their users. There are of course sound business reasons for this – it is impossible/costly to support every custom installation. But then again, what are you paying for then?

    Until useless middle-managers realise that the words ‘fully supported by vendor’ are basically meaningless, this sort of marketing gunk will keep going on. If redhat had the same xen patches yet a purchaser chose suse because of those worthless comforting words from microsoft, then why should redhat bother? It’s all about positioning their own offering in the market place, and they seem to be doing quite well so far.

    Anyway – the market will work this out if it is allowed to. Press releases aren’t illegal, and don’t sway everyone. When your competitor is faster to market with lower overheads because they downloaded ubuntu of a local file server for nothing and you bought vista server, and dealt with the costs of maintaining it, you’ll soon get smart or lose out.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 18, 2008 at 10:32 pm



    Yes, I am aware of distro-specific tweaks and customisations, but here you have something rather fundamental. Why would Novell work with VMWare and Xen in isolation for example? This seems suitable for mainline, just like KVM.

  3. John Wilson said,

    June 19, 2008 at 3:36 pm


    At one time there was an effort to include a Xen module in the kernel. That was in the days before Citrix had its hands all over it.

    Nor is VMWare eligible for mainline in the kernel for the simple reason that it’s proprietary closed source software.

    Also, for that reason, VMWare isn’t a standard no matter how much they (and you, it appears) would like it to be.

    FYI, I’ve seen kernels tuned for Virtual Box and VMWare in Mandriva, Debian, Ubuntu and on and on. No doubt in Fedora/RedHat as well particularly their server product.

    I don’t, though I could be wrong, think VMWare is going to exclude the top business distro (RedHat) to play games with Novell which is clearly #2 without a bullet in server share.

    If Novell and SUSE want to do this then fine as long as they play by the rules and the resulting tuned kernel is GPL’d with source available or it, not anyone else, stands an excellent chance of finding itself isolated.



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