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February 7, 2007

Microsoft becomes a virtual Linux distributor

In November, Novell and Microsoft announced that they were going to bring peace and harmony to the corporate data center by creating an 'intellectual property bridge.' It now appears that customers are indeed getting what they want, as Wal-Mart - the world's biggest retailer - recently announced that it had taken delivery of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server subscription certificates from Microsoft.

By CBR Staff Writer

One could be forgiven for thinking that a typo had crept into this article, but the truth is out: Microsoft is now pedaling Linux. Now please do not run away with the idea that Microsoft is starting to ‘sell’ Linux, because that is not the case. However, Microsoft will be distributing around 70,000 coupons for Novell’s SUSE Enterprise Server to joint customers as part of a re-sale arrangement with Novell for maintenance and support.

Novell and Microsoft are saying that this relationship is for the benefit of their joint customers, and that they will profit from a range of new software products and solutions being co-developed by the two companies – particularly in the area of server virtualization, web services, and document file format compatibility.

Customers are also being told that they will no longer have to worry about patent issues as they relate to the companies’ products. The press release on Microsoft’s website states: As part of this agreement, Microsoft will provide a covenant not to assert its patent rights against customers who have purchased SUSE Linux Enterprise Server or other covered products from Novell, and Novell will provide an identical covenant to customers who have a licensed version of Windows or other covered products from Microsoft.

In this new era of detente between Novell and Microsoft, this might just turn out to be the most significant part of the deal, as not only does it signal an easing of tension between these long-time rivals, but it also puts to rest some of the worries and concerns that IT managers currently have when considering large deployments of Linux, or when considering server consolidation projects using server virtualization technology. Of course, this agreement does nothing for users of Red Hat or other Linux distributions, and so one could foresee these companies losing out in the long-run.

Although Novell has not yet published any formal estimates, company executives recently told Butler Group that they anticipate the agreement will increase demand for SUSE Linux Enterprise as well as the company’s desktop products. And indeed, as if evidence were needed, Novell has just signed a 20,000-seat desktop deal with Peugeot Citroen.

The Microsoft/Novell partnership will undoubtedly be of interest to companies with large investments in Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise servers, but it should also act as something of a wake-up call for the industry as a whole, as this initiative has clearly come about as a result of the customer, i.e. Wal-Mart, knocking vendors’ heads together. Let us hope that 2007 sees more ‘customer power,’ as vendors have been examining their own navels for far too long.

Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (

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