Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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3/24/2009
06:05 PM
David Berlind
David Berlind
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Podcast: New Rev Of SUSE Linux First To Officially Support .NET, Silverlight

With no change to its business model or pricing (subscription-based support starting at $349 per server), Novell launched version 11 of it Linux distribution known as SUSE Enterprise Linux. For the first time, according to Novell officials, support is now available for running applications that were originally designed for Microsoft's .NET or Silverlight platforms. But, given how IT shops are starting to pinch pennies by moving to the cloud, must Novell change course?

With no change to its business model or pricing (subscription-based support starting at $349 per server), Novell launched version 11 of it Linux distribution known as SUSE Enterprise Linux. For the first time, according to Novell officials, support is now available for running applications that were originally designed for Microsoft's .NET or Silverlight platforms. But, given how IT shops are starting to pinch pennies by moving to the cloud, must Novell change course?In my podcast interview (press the tiny play button to hear it) with Novell's vice president of marketing Justin Steinman and senior vice president of Open Platform Solutions Markus Rex, I asked if long term, Novell will have to target providers of the cloud instead of end-users. According Steinman:

Nobody wakes up in the morning and says "I want to buy an operating system today." They wake up in the morning and say I've got a business intelligence problem....

...It's always dangerous to speculate on the future of Novell. What I will speculate on is the future of our operating system business. It's really going to be in providing the ISVs with the tools to go into the cloud. Where I think Novell's business could be is it could be an arms vendor to the cloud.

The question in my mind is what will it take for those ISVs to bite. For example, one of the big challenges when it comes to building scalable and cost-efficient clouds is in designing multi-tenanat systems. A cloud business isn't very scalable if there's a one-to-one relationship between new customers and gear the way Cisco must install a minimum of two appliances (one in the primary datacenter, one in the failover datacenter) for every customer that it signs up to its so-called "cloud-based" IronPort security service.

When asked if Novell was re-engineering SUSE Linux to support the sort of multitenancy that cloud providers will need to buy or develop (the way Google and Salesforce have developed it), Steinman unequivocally said "yes." But to be honest (and you can hear it for yourself in the podcast), the tone of his answer lacked conviction.

Linux is already a multiuser system. But delivering turnkey multitenancy in, what for most cloud providers will undoubtedly be some sort of clustering situation that's tightly tied to the performance of the application service itself, is a different challenge altogether. Today, multitenancy among cloud providers is pretty much homegrown. In fact, for most cloud providers, it's part of the secret sauce. If Novell, Red Hat, or Sun can deliver a turnkey multi-tenant platform to ISVs looking to go cloud, we could see a major uptick in cloud offerings.

Speaking of Red Hat, it's this version of SUSE that really puts the squeeze on the North Carolina-based distributor of Linux. Back in 2006, Microsoft struck a deal with Novell to work more closely in aligning the two company's technologies (and to promise not to sue Novell's customers for any sort of intellectual property infringement). For what seemed like forever, Miguel De Icaza's Mono project has offered the promise of running .NET applications on Linux servers. But until this latest version of SUSE Enterprise Linux, doing so was never officially supported. Now, according to Steinman and Rex, it is. So too is Moonlight -- a technology for running Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) designed for Microsoft's Silverlight platform.

In the podcast interview, I also ask Rex about the sudden arrival of netbooks on the scene and in particular, the growing interest in running them with Google's Android rather than Linux. Rex commented that it's still very early and Steinman jumped in to tell me how well SUSE Linux was running on his netbook -- an HP 2140 -- which was sitting on the table.

One other key message for Novell is the customizability of SUSE Enterprise Linux 11. Through an online tool called SUSE Studio (I'll publish a screenshot below when Novell gets me one), users will be able to build their own distributions of SUSE Linux whittling out components from one side, adding new ones to the other, in such a way that they'll be able to click one button to see if Novell will support the configuration. Steinman's message was very much about having Linux where you want it, how you want, when you want it and he says the company is committed to supporting myriad configurations but I'm not sure how far you can veer off the Novell reservation (turning to 3rd party componentry) before it tells you that you're designing an unsupported configuration.

David Berlind is an editor-at-large with InformationWeek. David likes to write about emerging tech, new and social media, mobile tech, and things that go wrong. He can be reached at dberlind@techweb.com and you also can find him on Twitter and other social networks (see the list below). David doesn't own any tech stocks. But, if he did, he'd probably buy some Salesforce.com and Amazon, given his belief in the principles of cloud computing and his hope that the stock market can't get much worse. Also, if you're an out-of-work IT professional or someone involved in the business of compliance, he wants to hear from you.

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