Novell to ship Xen in next Linux

Due in mid-April, new SuSE Linux will let programmers test software on virtual machines.

The next version of Novell's SuSE Linux product, shipping in mid-April, will let users run multiple versions of the operating system simultaneously, the company said on Thursday.

The support for multiple instances of the operating system in SuSE Linux Professional 9.3 comes through software called Xen , an open-source package that competes with products from Microsoft and EMC's VMware and has won big-name endorsements. Novell is adding the technology, which is useful for a number of tasks, to give programmers new abilities, said Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, director of marketing for SuSE Linux.

Xen provides a foundation called a virtual machine that an operating system thinks is a real computer. Running an operating system on such a foundation provides developers a painless way to test new software without risking damage to a primary computer. For example, they don't have to worry that a crash will corrupt essential system files.

However, Xen is still in fairly raw form. The software will be included with the Linux version but isn't installed by default, Mancusi-Ungaro said.

Novell announced the new Linux version at the CeBit trade show in Germany on Thursday. The cost in Europe--where SuSE Linux sales are strongest--will be 74 euros ($99), but U.S. pricing won't be set until closer to the product launch date, Mancusi-Ungaro said.

SuSE Linux Professional is geared for desktop computer tasks such as word processing, programming or playing digital videos. Novell hopes Windows users wanting to breathe new life into older computers will be interested.

Novell will offer a "Live DVD" version that can be run directly off a DVD drive to let people experiment with but not install the software. And about eight weeks after release, an installable version will be available for free download, Mancusi-Ungaro said.

SuSE Linux Professional 9.3 also adds the Linphone software for voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP); the Firefox Web browser; and the F-Spot photo organizer software. And it comes with the latest versions of graphical interface software, 2.10 and KDE 3.4.

The Professional product line changes more quickly and includes newer features than the company's premium product, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server , and its corresponding desktop version, Novell Linux Desktop .

Xen is " hypervisor " software that runs directly on a computer's hardware, managing operating system access to memory, input-output subsystem and other resources. So far, Xen only can run modified versions of Linux on x86 processors such as Intel's Pentium, but work is under way to extend it to other operating systems and processor domains.

Red Hat , the No. 1 Linux seller, also has begun adding Xen support to its Fedora version geared for Linux enthusiasts and programmers. The virtualization tasks Xen and its rivals must accomplish are expected to become easier with the arrival of new processor support from Intel in 2005 and Advanced Micro Devices in 2006.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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