During the recently ended VMworld conference (see virtualization.info live coverage), VMware announced a remarkable number of new products. A very interesting one is Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) for VMware.
In mid June VMware and Novell announced an OEM agreement to offer a copy of SLES for each licensed copy of vSphere 4.1.
More than that, the SLES license includes patches and updates. But the two companies didn’t include technical support: that one may be purchased separately from VMware: pricing starts at $600 for 12×5 phone support for one year.
Now the distribution is officially available but, surprisingly, you have to download it from Novell.
The current version is SLES 11 Service Pack 1, available for both 32 and 64bit, which Novell reports to be “tailored to run on VMware vSphere”.
Access to the ISOs requires to register a free account with Novell, so the reason why VMware is not distributing itself the Linux OS may be to give Novell enough visibility on the account database, as part of the OEM agreement.
So far VMware didn’t really clarify the reason to have a branded version of SLES.
The official plan is to adopt the Novell OS as the platform of choice for all its virtual appliances. In the past VMware selected Ubuntu for a similar purpose, but regardless of why the partner has been changed, there’s no real need to have an OEM’ed Linux distribution. The company is big enough to provide its own enterprise support for any OS of choice, and in fact customers have to buy SLES support directly from VMware, and not from Novell.
VMware is moving towards an architecture where ESX doesn’t include the Console Operating System (COS), so this OEM deal is not even for that purpose.
A (way too easy) explanation may be that VMware is testing the enterprise customers reactions to a fully-owned software stack, which, if positive, may lead to the future acquisition of Novell.