Novell releases SUSE Linux Enterprise 11

Waltham, Mass.-based Novell Inc.‘s (NASDAQ: NOVL) release of SUSE Linux Enterprise(SLE) 11 has a number of enhancements designed to help companies, during dire economic times, to cost-effectively run mission-critical applications in a mixed IT environment, regardless of the hardware or virtual platform, or cloud computing infrastructure.

SLE11 provides a common Linux framework across the enterprise, from the desktop to the data centre, “so organizations can deploy workloads wherever and however they choose,” said Ross Chevalier, Toronto-based Novell Canada Ltd.’s president and chief technology officer.

The release runs “with near-native performance” on five major hardware platforms (x86-32, x86-64, Itanium, IBM Power and IBM System z), as well as on all major hypervisors (VMware ESX, Microsoft Hyper-V and Xen). And, as service providers and vendors increasingly look to provide services in the cloud, SLE11 is also supported in initiatives like Amazon EC2.

“We continue to drive forward with our message about using the stuff that you have,” said Chevalier, adding that deploying Linux, specifically SUSE Linux, “does not require a forklift upgrade of your environment.”

The release, said Chevalier, responds to today’s business drivers: excellent integration, lower cost to implementation and operation, and standardized management tools across the framework. “We’re delivering on all three in this framework and it’s about ‘and’, it’s not ‘either/or,'” he said.

SLE11, which follows a beta version that began last September, incorporates feedback from the user community, including a desire for more video format interoperability, where on the desktop, historically, such formats are proprietary and non-licensable, said Chevalier.

SLE11 also incorporates capabilities that respond to the uptick in Linux adoption across organizations, said Chevalier, referring to a recent global study conducted by IDC on behalf of Novell that showed more than half of the 300 surveyed IT executives planning in 2009 to accelerate Linux adoption on the desktop and server. The primary reason cited was the “tremendous economies” afforded by Linux.

In the past six months, in particular, Chevalier has observed customers and prospects that are “seeing Linux, specifically, as even more relevant today as they have ever seen it.”

SLE11 has increased support for NFS (Network File System) protocol for a variety of different processes that enable quicker workload migration from proprietary Unix to Linux. Tools have also been added to the Novell framework like Novell’s Privileged User Management (technology acquired earlier this year from Newton, Mass.-based Fortefi Ltd.) to provide controls for Unix to Linux migration, said Chevalier.

According to Darin Stahl, lead analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group, SLE11’s enhancements — better interoperability and support — is “absolutely” a better value proposition than its predecessor, and will even help close the gap between Novell and rival Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat Inc. in the North American server operating system market. “It’s going to get them to the table,” said Stahl.

But Stahl said he isn’t seeing organizations’ cost-cutting strategies necessarily accelerating a switch to Linux or other open source platforms, simply because for a business, the direction taken comes down to the applications required and the platform upon which they will run. “The real issue is these businesses make decisions based on technology footprint and more importantly business applications,” said Stahl.

That said, Stahl is observing a targeted acceleration of interest and adoption of open source, in network management for instance.

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