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December 20, 2006

First customers receive Linux support subscriptions from Microsoft

The first Novell Inc and Microsoft Corp joint customers have received certificates for their Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise subscriptions from Microsoft under the terms of the recent interoperability deal struck between the two companies.

By CBR Staff Writer

Some 16,000 new certificates for SUSE Linux Enterprise have been activated since the two companies announced their collaboration agreement at the beginning of November, while the first customers have also been named.

Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and AIG Technologies are among the first customers to take delivery of Linux subscription certificates from Microsoft as part of the plan to improve Windows and Linux interoperability.

Representatives from all three companies also lined up to voice their support for the interoperability agreement, which sparked controversy when it was announced alongside a patent peace agreement last month.

Microsoft and Waltham, Massachusetts-based Novell insist that the deal is good for joint customers, but it has also been criticized by some open source supporters as being divisive and creating a Microsoft-approved Linux distribution.

The unsubstantiated claims by Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, that Linux contains Microsoft intellectual property served only to fuel fears that the deal will split the open source community, but for customers running Novell Linux and Windows together, the deal has undoubted benefits.

As part of the deal, Microsoft said it would buy 70,000 coupons from Novell each year for five years, worth $240m, with each coupon good for a full year of SUSE Linux Enterprise support from Novell to enable them to run the two operating systems together in virtualized environments.

Despite 16,000 of these coupons already having been activated, Novell recently predicted a slow ramp for certificate revenue. Novell said that it expects to build up a pipeline of 150 potential customers with Microsoft by January, but that it only expects $4m to $7m to come of the deal in the whole of next year, with a further $40m to $50m in 2008.

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Meanwhile the Novell/Microsoft deal has also got the backing of at least one other open source organization, European open source services firm Linux IT Ltd.

While the likes of Red Hat, the Samba development team, the Software Freedom Law Center, the Open Invention Network, and Bruce Perens have criticized the deal for various reasons, LinuxIT’s CEO, Peter Dawes-Huish, insists that it is good for Linux.

Interoperability between Microsoft and Linux has long been the greatest challenge for software publishers and system integrators in the Linux world, he noted in a statement. The Microsoft/Novell agreement will no doubt help to bridge the gap and make it easier for software buyers to run both Windows and Linux-based systems. But it is not that, vital though it is, that I believe will propel Linux further into the mainstream. It is Microsoft’s endorsement of Linux.

Dawes-Huish insisted that it is up to the Linux vendor community to make the most of this endorsement, noting a number of areas of potential improvement. We must confront the confusion surrounding the various distributions, the perceived lack of support, and to a much lesser extent the SCO/IBM lawsuits and patent violation disinformation, he said.

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