With its Corporate Server 4, Mandriva is challenging the Linux data center operating systems from Red Hat and Novell by offering broader support for virtualization technologies. Its a solid-sounding plan, but eWEEK Labs tests of CS 4 show that its longer on ambition than execution.
Mandrivas CS 4 is unique in its support for three different virtualization frameworks: Xen, OpenVZ and VMware. However, CS4 not only fails to advance the state of these frameworks on Linux, but, where Xen is concerned, CS4 falls short of the implementations now offered from Novell and Red Hat.
The Linux operating system offerings from Mandriva SA (the company formerly known as Mandrakesoft) have historically been recognized for their newbie-friendliness and their knack for giving users—primarily desktop users—access to software components not readily available from bigger firms. Indeed, the French companys initial raison dêtre was to offer users a Red Hat Linux clone with the graphical K Desktop Environment that Red Hat, at the time, didnt distribute.
Component flexibility remains a key selling point for CS 4, which Mandriva began shipping in September. Sites with a satisfactory service and support relationship with Mandriva should take Linux CS4 for a spin, to see whether the upgrade is worth undertaking.
However, administrators looking to deploy specific virtualization platforms on Linux should consider alternatives that have proven themselves in eWEEK Labs tests.
Those interested in deploying a Xen-savvy Linux distribution, for example, would probably be better off with Novells SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, which implements Xen. Based on our tests, Novells Xen efforts are more mature than those of Mandrivas. Another Xen option worth investigating is XenSources XenEnterprise 3.0, which, so far, is the best Xen implementation weve tested.
Companies interested in deploying OpenVZ virtualization can give CS4 a try, but we much prefer Debian GNU/Linux, which also offers OpenVZ-capable kernels.
Administrators interested in pursuing VMwares virtualization platforms may already be halfway there, as the companys offerings run on a wide-ranging list of host operating systems—from Windows to a handful of prominent Linux distributions, including free and fee-based options.
Mandriva CS 4 sells for $314, $414 or $654 with one, three or five years of maintenance support, respectively. Mandriva CS 4 supports x86 and x86-64 processor architectures. eWEEK Labs tested the 64-bit version on a single-processor Advanced Micro Devices Opteron system with 2GB of RAM.
It was the promise of virtualization flexibility that piqued our interest in Mandrivas Linux CS4, so it was disappointing to find that Mandrivas integration efforts arent that far along.
To begin with, no VMware packages came along with Linux CS 4, which is available for a one-month free trial from my.mandriva.com/cs4/trial/. According to a Mandriva support representative, VMware packages are slated to become available soon, through the Linux CS 4 update channel.
The representative added that the VMware packages available directly from VMware would run fine on CS 4. Weve had success running VMware Workstation, Server and Player on a wide range of Linux hosts—both explicitly supported and not—so we dont doubt that the software runs just fine on CS4. But thats not the point. What we hope to see from Mandriva, in addition to an option to install VMware Server through the distributions network repositories, is the availability of VMware drivers compiled to match the Mandriva kernel—and subsequent kernel updates.
Without this driver availability, administrators must compile VMware drivers themselves—a relatively easy task, but one that requires that an otherwise superfluous compiler and associated tool set be installed on the VMware Server host.