VMWare and Novell Ally for Virtualization

The VMWare-Novell pact looks like a coup for both companies.

VMWare Inc. has agreed to distribute Novell Inc.'s SUSE Linux Enterprise with its virtual appliance offerings. The agreement could be a coup for both companies, experts say.

For VMWare, the agreement lets VMWare offer its customers a canned migration route from their existing Unix applications (hosted on physical Unix servers) onto virtual iron. In addition, in a VMWare market dominated by Windows -- Gartner Inc. estimates that the ratio of Windows to Linux guests in VMWare environments is approximately 80 to 20 -- it gives VMWare an instantly credible Linux strategy.

For Novell, the pact is likewise packed with promise. "Novell has much to gain from this partnership, which, among other things, will allow VMware to distribute patches and updates for SUSE guests on VMware ESX, provide first-line support and download VMware appliances configured with SUSE Linux Enterprise server," write Gartner analysts George Weiss and Alan Dayley, in a research bulletin.

"It will give Novell more competitive opportunities via Novell's 'perfect guest' strategy -- aimed at deploying SUSE Linux Enterprise VMs on heterogeneous, multiple hypervisor platforms. Novell will also gain access to VMware's large installed base, move closer to SuSE Linux Enterprise in the cloud, and advance its alliance and partnership strategy in the data center."

It's an especially timely move, in that VMWare's and Novell's competitors aren't sitting still. Red Hat, for example, markets its own virtualization technology, dubbed Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV).

Red Hat positions RHEV, which is based on the open source Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM), as a competitor to VMWare. In late June, Red Hat teamed up with Cisco Systems Inc. to promote an ambitious new cloud offering, dubbed Red Hat Cloud Foundations (RHCF). Red Hat positions RHCF as a cross-hypervisor offering, noting that it supports non-RHEV virtualization platforms such as VMWare or Microsoft Corp.'s HyperV.

The recent pact between VMWare and Novell could help counter Red Hat's thrust, to some extent. It positions Novell as VMWare's obvious "go to partner" for Linux solutions, Weiss and Dayley point out.

It likewise gives VMWare a standard operating system (SuSE Linux Enterprise) to market across its line of virtual appliances, vCenter CapacityIQ, vCenter AppSpeed, and vCenter Update Manager.

Both Weiss and Dayley see an additional upside for Novell. "The deal could possibly also open up opportunities for Novell's intelligent workload management strategy and put it in the unique position of cross-fertilizing and growing SUSE Linux into Windows and VMware vSphere environments," they point out.

The big question, they suggest, is how aggressively VMWare plans to promote the partnership. "Enterprises should watch to see how aggressively VMware markets this alliance, especially how willing VMware will be to open its accounts to Novell to upsell SUSE management products and whether Novell's relationship with Microsoft on Hyper-V will be negatively affected," Weiss and Dayley conclude.

"Currently, the ratio of Linux to Windows on VMware is about 20/80, and it remains to be seen what the impact will be on the growth of Linux hosts as hypervisor-integrated VM platforms."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.