Red Hat, Novell Vie For Linux Virtualization Title

Linux virtualization

Roughly a week before Novell kicks off its annual Brainshare conference and details Xen support in its next Linux upgrade, Red Hat is expected on Tuesday to detail Xen virtualization support in its own Linux upgrade due out in 2006.

Novell stands to beat Red Hat to market with a built-in Xen hypervisor in Suse Linux Enterprise Server 10, slated to ship this spring. But on Tuesday, Red Hat will announce virtualization support for its upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5 upgrade on stage with a top executive from XenSource, the creator of the Xen open-source project.

Industry observers say Red Hat will introduce Frank Artale, who was named vice president of business development at XenSource last week. Artale most recently was a member of venture capital firm Accel Partners and previously founded Consera Software, which was sold to Hewlett-Packard. He also was an executive at Veritas Software and a general manager in the Windows 2000 group at Microsoft.

One source close to Xen said that XenSource--the commercial firm that sprung from the Xen open-source project--is trying to capitalize on the market power of top Linux leader Red Hat. Meanwhile, Red Hat is attempting to pre-empt Novell, he added.

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Nevertheless, he contended that Xen won't favor Red Hat or Novell in the coming Linux virtualization market. "So why does XenSource need to support Red Hat? Simple: It's a small company riding the coattails of the 65,000-ton gorilla," he said. "But Xen is an open-source project that Red Hat does not control in any way, shape or form. Red Hat is trying to pre-empt Suse and take the wind out of Xen's sails by staking claim in the OS. Problem: They don't control the bits to Xen."

John Enck, an analyst at research firm Gartner, pointed out that Red Hat and Novell will integrate Xen into their Linux distributions well before Microsoft can integrate its planned hypervisor into the Windows server. And whoever wins the battle will be in a good positon, he added.

"Xen is a huge thing. VMware is very successful driving up the virtualization market, but ESX is pricey stuff," Enck said. "Xen is a potential player because you can take a commodity server running on Windows or Linux. Whoever owns the hypervisor layer gives them a position of power."