Oracle, Amazon offer new ways to run Linux from afar

Organizations hoping to streamline their deployments of Linux have two new options for running the open source OS remotely.

In the new version of its Virtual Desk Infrastructure (VDI) software, Oracle has included the ability to run various Linux distributions on thin-client devices. And Novell has announced that Amazon will start offering cloud-based versions of Novell's SUSE Linux OS on its Elastic Compute Cloud service.

Inherited in Oracle's purchase of Sun Microsystems, Oracle VDI (formerly Sun VDI) offers the ability to stream entire desktop interfaces from servers to thin-clients and desktop computers. Version 3.2 expands the number of OSes it can support beyond Microsoft Windows.

"For us, VDI is not exclusively Windows," said Wim Coekaerts, who is an Oracle senior vice president for Linux and virtualization engineering. "Linux desktop is a small play, but it's more than zero."

VDI 3.2 officially supports Ubuntu, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and Oracle Enterprise Linux, though organizations are free to run other Linux distributions with the software as well. Oracle has no plans to support Red Hat Enterprise Linux, given that the company's own Oracle Enterprise Linux is a close replica of that OS, Coekaerts said.

The VDI software only runs on Oracle Solaris, though it can act as a broker for client virtual machines running from Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware VSphere.

Beyond Linux support, version 3.2 features a number of other new features as well. One is the ability to maintain OS images across multiple accounts, which could be handy for VDI service providers with multiple clients, Coekaerts said. Desktop users can now listen to audio and watch video with this new release as well. Also, Windows clients running in the data center servers can share memory for some applications, decreasing the amount of required working memory overall.

In its deal with Novell, Amazon will offer hourly pricing for running virtual copies of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and 11. Users deploying these virtual copies of SUSE on EC2 will be able to install the security patches, bug fixes and few features that will be offered by Novell.

Although Amazon already offers virtual instances of Open SUSE, these do not have commercial support, said Michael Applebaum, who is Novell's director of Linux and appliances marketing. Amazon is offering the virtual OSes through Novell's SUSE Cloud Program, a service for companies that wish to provide SUSE on an on-demand basis.

"End customers don't need to contract with Novell at all. We give Amazon's customers the ability to seamlessly purchase fully supported on-demand instances of SUSE Enterprise Server," Applebaum said. "You're getting the full maintenance subscription."

Users can also outfit the OS instance with their own applications in-house, using SUSE Studio, and then upload it to Amazon's service, or continue to run it in-house.

Pricing for the service has not been determined yet, Applebaum said. Amazon will start offering the new operating systems by the end of the year.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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