Novell is quietly working on a stand-alone hypervisor product that will be based on the Xen hypervisor found in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10.
Novell executives demonstrated the product, which is currently under development, at its recent BrainShare conference in Salt Lake City, said Roger Levy, senior vice president and general manager for the Open Platform Solutions business unit at Novell.
“This product will be available later this year and is based on the Xen hypervisor found in SLES 10, which has been slimmed down, and things like the visibility of the boot sequence have been changed,” Levy said, acknowledging that it would be a similar product to Microsoft’s stand-alone version of Hyper-V.
Microsoft said last November that it would release Hyper-V Server, a stand-alone hypervisor-based server virtualization product that complements the Hyper-V technology in Windows Server 2008 and allows customers to virtualize workloads onto a single physical server. It is expected to retail for $28.
Virtualization allows the hardware and software life cycles to be decoupled, which is something Novell’s customers and partners were asking for, Kurt Garloff, Novell’s vice president of product management, told eWEEK in a recent interview.
“So you will see us deliver the Xen hypervisor along with a scaled-down version of Linux that includes the hardware drivers and some of the management pieces. This will be bundled separately and have a separate life cycle. There will also be an application platform, known as the virtual distribution, which will host the application,” Garloff said.
Virtualization and operating system embedded at the same time
Novell Chief Technology Officer Jeff Jaffe hinted at a stand-alone hypervisor product during his keynote address at the BrainShare conference in March, saying one of Novell’s goals was to make SLES 11 available as an appliance that would be supported by a new tool set designed to quickly build specialized images.
Novell was also planning to deliver optimized versions of SUSE Linux Enterprise for specific ISV stacks, as well as a new embedded version to allow independent hardware vendors to embed virtualization and operating systems directly into the hardware, he said at that time.
Novell’s vision for the hypervisor includes the physical distribution, known as the p-distro, which is built on open Linux and includes other open-source technologies like Xen, Jaffe told eWEEK in a recent interview.
“There are some who say that a hypervisor should have no trappings of Linux,” Jaffe said. “We are not quite of that opinion. In our view, if you can build it and leverage the Linux investment then, in terms of the Linux infrastructure-all the device drivers and tuning and certifications that you have done for running applications on Linux-you want to inherit that running the applications on your p-distro or your virtualization platform.”
The Promise of Plug-and-Go Virtualization
Demand for the stand-alone hypervisor product would depend on what the user’s application needs were, Jaffe said, noting that the current approach of integrating the hypervisor as part of Linux worked fine for the conventional compute model, where there was a big system and a stack, and would continue to work fine there.
“But then, if you have something like the all-in-one appliance-like framework or any of the other different emerging models of computing, for that you sometimes want a tighter form factor that you can just plug it in and go. So we are trying to address these different market segments,” Jaffe said.
While Novell believes that the target market for virtualization is “everyone,” the appropriate form factor would differ based on whether the user was running a conventional stack, a tight appliance or a turnkey appliance that did not require all of the overhead and configurability, he said.
Asked to what extent or how Novell plans to make SLES 11, the next version of its server operating system, more roles-based, as Microsoft has done with Windows Server 2008, Jaffe said the way he looked at this was that there was the core operating system and the management system.
In the Linux world, and probably in the SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 time frame, the operating system itself would manage more core system resources and be less of an application manager, while the broader management system would be providing the other capabilities, he said.
“Do I agree with Microsoft that roles-based management is an important paradigm? Absolutely. But from a function placement perspective, I would put it more in the management system rather than in the operating system. With Microsoft’s monolithic integrated approach, you sometimes can’t cull that out separately,” he said.