EMC, the majority owner of VMware, has agreed with the Department of Justice not to acquire 33 Virtualization Patents from Novell as part of a side-transaction in the acquisition of Novell by Attachmate. The Statement from the Department of Justice sheds significant light on the deal that had been struck between Novell and a newly-created company formed by Microsoft, EMC, Apple, Oracle to acquire a portfolio of patents for $450M, and the anti-trust threat that the Department of Justice saw to the Open Source community. And whilst the spotlight has been on Microsoft’s role, it seems that the role of EMC in seeking to acquire Virtualization patents was at least as concerning to the Department of Justice.
Under the terms of the original deal, at the same time as Attachmate acquired Novell, a newly-formed company called CPTN Holdings would acquire a portfolio of 882 patents from Novell, and then Microsoft, EMC, Apple and Oracle would each acquire some of these patents from CPTN Holdings.
Last Fall we all got quite excited here at the Virtualization Practice about the fate of SUSE, the commercial Linux Distribution, second in market share by value to Red Hat. SuSE is owned by Novell and the acquisition of Novell by Attachmate was announced on November 22nd for around $2.2bn. We noted that SUSE might end up as a standalone entity for subsequent sale to a third party, possibly VMware.
It’s now April, and since these things usually take 3 months and the deal hasn’t closed, clearly something has got in the way. Last week we started to see the way the deal could be unlocked.
Rumors have intensified since our post back in June suggesting VMware might acquire SUSE Linux from Novell as part of a “fire sale” of Novell’s assets. Much of the rationale we articulated has been repeated in posts on other sites.
- VMware would get, a widely-adopted operating system with great application and tool support.
- VMware would have a long-term strategy to compete with Microsoft at the Operating System level in case Hyper-V became the dominant hypervisor under Windows.
- VMware would have the last major layer in its SpringSource platform, now re-named vFabric
However, nobody has picked up on another point we made:
If VMware buys Novell, it can create an entire clone of Microsoft Azure without a single piece of Microsoft software in the stack.
VMworld is clearly the largest dedicated virtualization conference, and yet from an Open Source perspective it is slightly disappointing because the VMware ecosystem naturally attracts proprietary software vendors, and also some of the more interesting activities in Open Source are through multi-vendor foundations which do not have the same marketing budgets as vendors themselves.
Nevertheless, there are a number of key Open Source players, and some interesting smaller players, represented at VMworld.
On June 9, Novell and VMware announced an OEM deal over SUSE Enterprise Linux. (SLES). Basically, if you buy vSphere 4 (or 4.1) after June 9th, you get a free copy of SLES to run on any CPU on which you have a valid licence for vSphere. VMware is still fairly vociferous that the hypervisor and the Operating System are separate entities, but in some sense this obviously lines up SLES on vSphere alongside Windows on Hyper-v, in both cases the O/S and the hypervisor are supplied under the same licence.
Now clearly SLES also contains two other hypervisors (KVM and Xen), but you aren’t allowed to use either of them – the SLES license is only for use with vSphere, and you can’t install the SLES on bare-metal or on any other hypervisor. This deal is about SLES as a guest. Novell positions SLES as the “universal guest” running well on every hypervisor, and has optimized drivers for most virtual environments.
As of Service Pack 1, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 (SLES) supports KVM. The bald facts are as follows. SLES 11 SP1 is based on a 2.6.32 kernel and is now full supported on x86_64 processors which support hardware virtualization, for the following guest operating systems:
- SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1
- SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP3
- SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 SP4
We note there is no mention of other Linux guests or Windows guests. This post follows on from our previous post regarding the demise of Xen in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and perhaps suggests the beginning of the end for Xen-based virtualization in Linux, but the story is far from clear.