IBM Corp.'s low-end servers and middleware for the first time will support XenSource Inc.'s open-source Xen virtualization technology, since it's included in Novell Inc.'s new Suse Linux distribution, IBM announced Monday.
As expected, Novell officially unveiled its Suse Linux Enterprise 10 operating system Monday, which includes the Xen virtualization software. The software allows multiple operating systems to run simultaneously on the same server.
"There's no doubt how important virtualization has become," said Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide Linux and open-source software at IBM. "Servers are heavily underutilized." Being able to virtualize their hardware can be a real cost saver for companies, he added.
IBM pledged to support the new Suse release throughout its hardware and middleware software and provide services support.
As for Xen, IBM will support the technology as part of its Virtualization Engine software offering on BladeCenter blade servers as well as servers based on x86 chips from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Over the next year, as IBM updates more than 500 middleware products including Tivoli, WebSphere and Rational families, the vendor will add in support for Suse Linux Enterprise 10 and Xen, Handy said.
IBM intends to continue its even-handed treatment of the top two Linux distribution companies -- Novell and Red Hat Inc. As soon as Red Hat comes out with its new Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, expected in December, IBM will move to support that distribution, which also includes support for Xen, Handy said.
"Novell has tended to ship technology earlier than Red Hat in the adoption cycle," he added, citing Novell's support for version 2.6 of the Linux kernel.
As for IBM's new support for Xen, that decision won't affect the vendor's existing support for other rival virtualization software from VMware Inc. and Microsoft Corp., Handy said. He expects that many customers will end up running at least two different virtualization technologies and some may run all three -- Xen, Microsoft and VMware -- raising the importance of virtualization management.
IBM has over 40 years experience in virtualization, a technology that first appeared on mainframes. The vendor has made contributions to the Xen open-source technology in areas including system stabilization and systems management, Handy said.
IBM views Xen as an emerging technology that's already gaining significant traction in the market. "It's not mainstream yet, nor does it have a tremendous amount of usage," Handy said. "Lots of customers of all sizes are kicking the tires, testing it in pilots and prototypes."