MS Linux anyone?

Microsoft and Novell (SuSE Linux) collaboration

According to the press release, Microsoft and Novell are joining forces to create a new research activity with the aim of improving virtualisation, Web Services (for SOA) and document format interoperability. There is also a deal on patent infringements (i.e. buy SuSE and be indemnified against any infringements of MS IPR).

This is no ordinary deal. MS rolled out the big guns in the form of heavyweight endorsements from the likes of Intel, AMD, HP, IBM, Dell and many more. The deal is also restricted to SLES, the enterprise version of SuSE, clearly indicating the target market for this collaboration. To get the ball rolling, Microsoft will purchase about 70,000 coupons from Novell to distribute to MS customers, giving them year-long subscriptions to SLES, with support.

Of course, if you look at this another way, one could see this as one in the eye for Red Hat, who have been a constant thorn in Microsoft’s side in the enterprise server market. Perhaps the deal with Novell will make certain IT execs think twice about Red Hat, and possibly re-introduce Microsoft into the purchasing cycle, albeit in the form of a SuSE purchase. With SuSE installed, and MS-endorsed interoperability, it is only a short hop over the fence to buying MS products instead.

What is in this for Linux admirers? That interoperability and virtualisation support sounds nice, but is irrelevant if you are a pure Linux shop. The biggest carrot on the stick is the patent indemnity. It is always at the back of an IT manager’s mind that the Open Source house of cards could come tumbling down if the commercial players exercised their legal muscle. Regardless of any moral arguments, the law would probably favour those with patents (and the finance to defend them). A deal like this could calm those nerves.

Perhaps next we will see Microsoft releasing mainstream software for SuSE. It is unlikely that such software would be Open Source, or even free (though perhaps initially), but it could make sense to offer low-cost solutions. That would create a nice pathway for pure Linux shops to migrate to Microsoft. The plan is simple: move existing Linux deployments to SLES, then replace certain key applications with supperted budget versions from Microsoft. Finally, upgrade the budget version to the professional versions. That last step will probably involve shifting to an alternative SuSE-friendly platform, like Windows perhaps…

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