Novell and Red Hat have both updated their Linux operating systems, adding improvements in virtualisation, desktops, networking, management and hardware support.

Novell released SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 Service Pack 2 (SP2), while Red Hat shipped Version 5.2 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Both vendors added improvements on the desktop and the server. There were many areas of overlap, especially with virtualisation.

Novell added support for Xen 3.2 to its server platform, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), and support for fully virtualised Windows Server 2008 and 2003 platforms. In addition, Novell now supports live migration of Windows guests across physical machines.

Novell's support of the Windows platform is an outgrowth of a cross-licensing patent deal it signed with Microsoft in 2006 and an interoperability lab the pair opened in 2007.

Novell also updated its YaST (Yet another Set-up Tool) to ease boot-ups and add network module support for new devices.

Red Hat also focused on improving its virtualisation capabilities, which are based on the same Xen hypervisor technology Novell uses.

"The biggest thing for us is that some limits went away," says Daniel Riek, product manager for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. "We now support more CPUs and NUMA-based architectures."

RHEL 5.2 now can handle virtualised systems with up to 64 CPUs and 512GB of memory. Red Hat also boosted security, performance, management, and power savings capabilities for newer processors. The company added new drivers for RHEL 3 to improve its performance as a guest operating system running on a RHEL 5 host server.

On the desktop, the two vendors also made a number of improvements.

Novell added local NTFS file support to improve interoperability with Windows and Office, improved integration with Active Directory and upgraded 2.4 Novell Edition, a set of productivity applications.

The improvements include a technical preview of an Office Open XML (OOXML) translator. Novell also added plug-and-play support for wireless broadband (UMTS, 3G), and Network Manager enhancements.

The RHEL desktop 5.2 was updated with enhanced support for laptop power management features - suspend/hibernate and resume - updated graphics drivers and updates to desktop applications, including OpenOffice 2.3 and Firefox v3.

Novell also unveiled a new tool called Subscription Management Tool for SUSE Linux Enterprise to help users manage distribution of updates. The SP2 release also includes updates to Heartbeat2 and OCFS2 for high availability and storage management, support for IPv6, support for IBM cryptographic hardware, and enhancements to network, storage and other drivers for better hardware compatibility.

New real-time support features include adaptive locking, OpenFabrics Enterprise Distribution 1.3 and the Precise Timing Protocol.

Novell also updated several tools in its SUSE Linux Enterprise Software Development Kit, including KIWI, YaST2 Product Creator, YaST2 Add-on Creator and YaST2 Image Creator.

Red Hat upgraded hardware support for x86/x86-64, Itanium, IBM Power and IBM System z, The company also added support for IPv6 and IPSec, updated storage, network and graphics drivers and certified IBM's Cell Blade System.