March 24, 2009, 9:12 AM — Novell unveiled SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 on Tuesday, with features and capabilities that reflect the company's controversial multiyear agreement with Microsoft.
In 2006, Microsoft and Novell agreed to work on improving compatibility between their products, and pledged not to pursue patent claims against each other's customers. The move has been widely decried by open-source software advocates.
But the relationship has borne significant fruit, according to Novell. The vendor said SUSE 11 will work "seamlessly" with Windows regarding areas like systems management, virtualization, document formats and even multimedia.
A new feature called Mono Extension provides support for Mono, allowing companies to run .NET applications on Linux systems without having to recompile the programs. The extension will also enable IBM System z mainframe users to run .NET applications.
SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 runs on a wide range of hardware and has also been optimized for "near-native" performance on a range of hypervisors, including VMware ESX, Microsoft Hyper-V and Xen.
While Novell has included many new capabilities, there aren't necessarily many surprises, said Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady. "This is what you can expect from enterprise-class platforms, be they Linux or Windows, at this point. If you're a general-purpose OS, you need to be able to multitask."
Mono does provide Novell with a differentiator from other Linux distributions, O'Grady said.
"Novell can do that because of the deal they have with Microsoft," he added. "Until it's viewed as patent-safe on all Linux platforms, not just Novell, it's going to be a tough sell."
Meanwhile, Novell is also hoping to rev up the application market around its OS, with SUSE Linux Enterprise JeOS (just enough operating system), which ISVs can use along with a set of tools called Suse Studio, to package their products as virtual appliances.
Novell has a "supportability algorithm" for vetting appliances; those that pass muster will receive technical support from Novell.
"You can really start to think of this as mass customization of Linux," said Novell spokesman Justin Steinman, vice president of solution and product marketing.
Suse Studio is now in alpha. A public beta is scheduled to begin soon, according to Steinman.