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Novell Picks (Virtualisation) Side: Software Patents and Microsoft

"It’s going very well insofar as we originally agreed to co-operate [with Microsoft] on three distinct projects and now we’re working on nine projects and there’s a good list of 19 other projects that we plan to co-operate on."

--Ron Hovsepian (two weeks ago)



"Our partnership with Microsoft continues to expand."

--Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO



Amidst some virtualisation-oriented events, there's a big virtualisation buzz in the news, especially at the moment [1, 2, 3, 4]. It is unfortunate but not surprising to find that Novell has already found a partner in Microsoft, whose platform it helps push as a host (Windows as "master"), along with Microsoft's utilities that act as a steering wheel and can thus control performance of GNU/Linux ("guest" or "slave"). It's widely agreed that resource allocation is more sophisticated (also fair and transparent for public scrutiny) under Linux, so it hardly makes sense to handle the VM hierarchy in such a way. This is something we wrote about yesterday and some more people weigh in on this issue. From CNET:



As Suse Linux fades further from any relevance outside of Microsoft, and Red Hat and Sun make huge strides in virtualization, Novell plans to offer support for Suse running on Windows. Is there meaning here or is Novell just becoming more of a Microsoft puppet?


The CRN headline found here says "Microsoft, Novell Add Linux Support To Hyper-V" rather than "Microsoft permits only Microsoft SUSE 'Special' Support in Hyper-V."

Microsoft and Novell have been busily hammering away behind the scenes to show that their nearly two-year-old interoperability pact is more than just another IT industry dog-and-pony show. Now, those efforts have begun to bear fruit.


Worth noting is Microsoft's view on it:

Brent Phillips, a senior product manager for intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, said the channel offering will involve coupons for SUSE Linux that Microsoft has purchased from Novell.


Coupons is what Microsoft also calls "patent royalties". Yes, Microsoft is marketing those coupons as "patent royalties" and Novell reluctantly joins in with this chorus ("peace of mind"). The Register offers some coverage of this too.

The deal spins from Microsoft anointing Novell as its pet Linux distribution back in 2006, while the software giant was attempting to cool off other distros with (apparently idle) threats of IP infringement.


This is not the first time that the role of software patents in Microsoft virtualisation (using "hypercalls") is mentioned [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Novell is playing with fire, and it's loving it!

___ [1] Red Hat, Novell, Canonical all rush to VMworld stage

With virtualization being the hottest thing in computing, VMworld 2008 is the place to be next week, and all the leading open source OS vendors will soon descend on the show to be part of the action. The Las Vegas trade show is the No. 1 spot for open source providers to reach out to customers and spread the word about their respective virtualization strategies.


[2] The Data Center Desktop

Red Hat recognizes that Qumranet’s desktop virtualization products bring a new shade of green to corporate enterprises by shifting the bulk of the power, administration, and troubleshooting to servers. Desktop virtualization is the next major frontier in this brave new go to green world.


[3] Sun Microsystems targets Linux and UNIX

Sun Microsystems, Inc., has announced the availability of Sun xVM Server software and Sun xVM Ops Center 2.0, key components in its comprehensive virtualization strategy. Designed to operate at Internet scale, the Sun xVM virtualization portfolio is open, flexible and delivers the industry's most robust offerings for virtualization from the desktop to the datacenter.


[4 ] Sun quietly launches open source project hosting site

Last Friday, Sun Microsystems quietly rolled out a beta version of Project Kenai, an open source project hosting system which bills itself as "More than just a forge". Tim Bray, Sun's Director of Web Technologies, announced Project Kenai on his blog, ongoing. Project Kenai, pronounced "KeenEye" according to Bray's announcement, is a Rails based application, providing source code management and issue tracking, like other open source forges. Kenai includes the infrastructure for social networking, hence the "More than just a forge" slogan.

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