Virtualization Technology News and Information
Novell Touts SUSE Linux 10, Says Desktops and Xen Are Ready

Quoting IT Jungle

Having already launched its SUSE Linux 10 variants for the server and desktop four weeks ago, Novell did not have a big announcement at the LinuxWorld tradeshow in San Francisco. But the company did offer some more details on how SUSE Linux 10 is being received by the market and took a few swipes at Red Hat, which has been saying that the Xen virtual machine hypervisor inside SUSE Linux 10 is not ready for enterprise deployments yet. Novell also talked a bit about the prospects for Linux on the desktop, its marketing campaigns, and new Linux partners it had added.

John Dragoon, Novell's chief marketing officer, said in a press conference he co-hosted with Jeffrey Jaffe, Novell's chief technology officer, that the Linux portion of the Novell site had received over 1 million hits since SLES 10 and SLED 10 launched on July 17. Hits are interesting, but downloads count more, of course.

The pace of downloads for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) have slowed down a bit in recent weeks, but only a bit. In the first 10 days following the launch of these updated Linux 2.6 distributions, Novell had 165,000 downloads, or about one every five seconds, on average. Up through yesterday, Novell had a total of 325,000 downloads, which works out to an average of one every six seconds. Of course, that's an average over 28 days, and if you do the math, you can figure out that in the past 18 days, Novell has had only 160,000 downloads. The downloads per day have therefore slipped from an average of 16,500 per day in the first 10 days of availability of SUSE Linux 10 to 8,900 per day in the past 18 days. While this rate is down significantly, this is a lot more download activity than Novell is accustomed to.

Dragoon said further that about 170,000 of those downloads were for SLES 10, while the remaining 155,000 licenses were for the SLED desktop variant. This is a pretty heavy count for the desktop, and of those 155,000 licenses, 19,000 of them were not anonymous downloads, but to people who registered at the Novell Customer Center, the company's new Web-based support interface. Dragoon suggested that these 19,000 people were probably interested in acquiring support from Novell, which is, after all, how the company ultimately makes money on Linux. (He did not say how many of the server downloads were registered.)

The high percentage of desktop downloads underpins Novell's new sales and marketing campaigns, which will push SUSE Linux as a platform that spans from the desktop to the data center. Dragoon showed off three 60-second "small screen" advertisements aimed at online promotion of SUSE, saying that Novell did not have big budgets of competitors--meaning Microsoft--to take out expensive ads on television. Dragoon did say that Novell has heard plenty of criticism of how it was underselling SUSE Linux, and said that Novell would "heavily invest" in print and Web advertising to promote its Linux products.

"We're not satisfied with the current mindshare or market share, and it is our job to turn it around," Dragoon conceded.

With SLED 10, Novell is clearly optimistic that it can address the market for relatively simple, fixed function terminals, something that its Novell Linux Desktop 9 software from two years ago could do. With SLED 10, Novell believes that it has enough features to go after the knowledge worker--the employee who sits at a desk most of the day and uses five basic applications: an email client, a Web browser, a presentation graphics program, a word processor, and a spreadsheet.

With OpenOffice 2.0 and support for many Visual Basic macros, Jaffe says that Novell can now pursue these knowledge workers, who comprise about a third of the installed PC base in the world. Jaffe did say, however, that consumers and high-end Windows users were not necessarily ready for Linux, and that Novell was not necessarily ready to support them. But as the delivering of a high-end portable workstation from Lenovo Group, called the ThinkPad 760p, running SUSE Linux shows, Novell wants to get there.

In the meantime, Novell is hoping to get 15 very large trials of SLED 10 organized by the end of the year, and is encouraging anyone who is looking at Microsoft's future Vista desktop release of Windows to give SLED 10 a whirl.

"We think the trials will give us a baseline to which scenarios are appropriate for replacement," said Dragoon. And having learned from that trial experience, Novell and its partners will take it to the market at large.

Dragoon was amused that Red Hat's top brass have been saying in the wake of the SUSE Linux 10 launch that the Xen hypervisor, which is woven into this software and available for free, is not cooked enough to use in enterprises. "We actually do think it is ready for prime time," countered Dragoon, adding that Novell was working with customers to figure out where it is appropriate to deploy and admitting that it is not necessarily the right hypervisor technology to deploy in all situations.

Justin Steinman, director of product marketing for the SUSE Linux products at Novell, said that Novell and its server partners have put Xen through thousands of hours of quality assurance testing prior to the July 17 launch. Steinman basically said that Red Hat's attitude amounted to little more than sour grapes because Novell got a five-month lead on Red Hat, which is expected to deliver integrated Xen support in December with its Enterprise Linux 5 release.

"We have been working intensely with the Xen community to make Xen stable," Steinman said. "Does Red Hat think it is going to make leaps and bounds in the four months between now and when it ships Xen?"

Finally, Novell made some software partner announcements. First, Real Networks has licensed a version of the RealPlayer 3 media player to Novell so it can be distributed inside of SLED 10. An initial version is in SLED 10 now, and by the end of the year, this will be upgraded to support Windows Media formats and add the Helix Banshee music player functionality. The existing RealPlayer supports MP3, RealAudio, RealVideo, and Ogg file formats. Not coincidentally, Helix Banshee is itself a commercialized implementation of an open source media player developed by the Gnome graphical user interface project.

Novell also added four more partners to its MarketStart program, boosting the number to 17 vendors. Under MarketStart, which was launched in the fall of 2005, Novell does co-marketing and co-development with open source software companies to get them rolling or, if they are already rolling, to better align Novell and the software partner's marketing. This time around, Novell has added Centeris, which provides Windows-like tools to help administrators run Linux servers; JasperSoft, which provides business intelligence and data warehousing tools; Virtuas, which provides commercial-grade support for the Apache Geronimo application server; and Zmanda, a maker of backup and archiving software for Linux platforms.

Read the original story, here.


Published Wednesday, August 16, 2006 7:03 AM by David Marshall
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