[FoRK] Microsoft and Novell: Fox marries chicken,
both move into henhouse
Stephen D. Williams <
sdw at lig.net
> on >
Thu Nov 2 20:17:26 PST 2006
Microsoft and Novell: Fox marries chicken, both move into henhouse
Posted by Dana Gardner @ 1:57 pm
The stunning news that Microsoft will partner with Novell to support
SuSe Linux as an alternative deployment platform to Windows — and that
they announce it on the cusp of the arrival of Windows Vista! — is one
of the most intriguing events in IT in some time.
One has to surmise that the Oracle move on Unbreakable Linux must have
played into the timing, if not the substance, of this Microsoft-Novell
barn-burner. As I blogged just this week, Oracle has reshuffled the deck
and forced the hand of all the players in the open source business. We
look to IBM with tired eyes.
I have not yet heard the Steve Ballmer announcement at 5 p.m. ET today.
But already I have some major questions:
–Is Microsoft in a sense in league with Oracle, perhaps in an
uncoordinated way, to subvert the commercial Linux — and by extension
open source — business models? If you can get Red Hat Enterprise Linux
support from Oracle for $99 and up, and you can get SuSe Linux support
from Microsoft (assuming at price parity to Oracle), then all bets are
off for commercial Linux businesses. These moves take the oxygen from
the other Linux vendors. Linux will be fine, I suppose, but given their
sales forces, Oracle and Microsoft will soon dominate the Linux distro
business, and use it to sell their own wares. That could mean they own
and then snuff out the open source components that threaten them.
–Or is Microsoft in opposition to Oracle, not in principle but in
practice? That is, if Oracle can make good business selling Linux
support and moving up the stack for service support for both commercial
and open source components — to complete with IBM, HP, Sun, and BEA —
why shouldn't Microsoft, too? Both Microsoft and Oracle have deep
pockets and highly profitable other product lines to keep the going as
they hollow-out the lower-stack components business.
Wow, again the implications are staggering. More to come when I hear the
Maybe it has more to do with virtualization as a weapon than subverting
the business model through cheap support. Seems Novell gets to keep its
support revenue, but what does Microsoft get? Take a look.
Here are the major points of the release:
Novell and Microsoft have signed three related agreements with the
objective to enhance interoperability between Linux and Windows and give
customers more flexibility in their IT environments.
1) Under a technical cooperation agreement, Novell and Microsoft will
work together in three primary areas to deliver new solutions to
customers: virtualization, web services management and document format
2) Under a patent cooperation agreement, Microsoft and Novell provide
patent coverage for their respective customers, giving customers peace
of mind regarding intellectual property issues.
3) Under a business cooperation agreement, Novell and Microsoft are
committing to dedicate marketing and sales resources to promote joint
Here's the release:
Microsoft and Novell Announce Broad Collaboration on Windows and Linux
Interoperability and Support
Companies also announce a patent agreement covering proprietary and open
REDMOND, Wash., and WALTHAM, Mass. – Nov. 2, 2006 – Microsoft and Novell
today announced a set of broad business and technical collaboration
agreements to build, market and support a series of new solutions to
make Novell and Microsoft products work better together. The two
companies also announced an agreement to provide each others’ customers
with patent coverage for their respective products.
These agreements will be in place until at least 2012. Under this new
model, customers will realize unprecedented choice and flexibility
through improved interoperability and manageability between Windows and
“They said it couldn’t be done. This is a new model and a true evolution
of our relationship that we think customers will immediately find
compelling because it delivers practical value by bringing two of their
most important platform investments closer together,” said Steve
Ballmer, president and CEO of Microsoft. “We’re excited to work with
Novell, whose strengths include its heritage as a mixed source company.
Resolving our patent issues enables a combined focus on virtualization
and Web Services Management to create new opportunities for our
companies and our customers.”
Under the agreement, Novell is establishing clear leadership among Linux
platform and open source software providers on interoperability for
mixed source environments. As a result, Microsoft will officially
recommend SUSE Linux Enterprise for customers who want Windows-Linux
solutions. Additionally, Microsoft will distribute coupons for SUSE
Linux Enterprise Server maintenance and support, so that customers can
benefit from the use of an interoperable version of Linux with patent
coverage, as well as the collaborative work between the two companies.
“Too often technology companies ask their customers to adapt to them.
Today we are adapting to our customers,” said Ron Hovsepian, president
and CEO of Novell. “Microsoft and Novell are enabling customers to take
advantage of each others’ products where it makes sense in their
enterprise infrastructure. We jointly believe that our business and
patent agreements make it possible to offer the highest level of
interoperability with the assurance that both our companies stand behind
Agreement has broad scope
The two companies will create a joint research facility at which
Microsoft and Novell technical experts will architect and test new
software solutions and work with customers and the community to build
and support these technologies. The agreement between Microsoft and
Novell focuses on three technical areas that provide important value and
choice to the market:
* Virtualization. Virtualization is one of the most important trends in
the industry. Customers tell us that virtualization is one way they can
consolidate and more easily manage rapidly growing server workloads and
their large set of server applications. Microsoft and Novell will
jointly develop the most compelling virtualization offering in the
market for Linux and Windows.
* Web Services for managing physical and virtual servers. Web Services
and service oriented architectures continue to be one of the defining
ways software companies can deliver greater value to customers.
Microsoft and Novell will undertake work to make it easier for customers
to manage mixed Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise environments and to
make it easier for customers to federate Microsoft Active Directory with
* Document Format Compatibility. Microsoft and Novell have been focusing
on ways to improve interoperability between office productivity
applications. The two companies will now work together on ways for
OpenOffice and Microsoft Office users to best share documents and both
will take steps to make translators available to improve
interoperability between Open XML and OpenDocument Formats.
“As a result of this collaboration, customers will now be able to run
virtualized Linux on Windows or virtualized Windows on Linux,” said Jeff
Jaffe, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Novell.
“Customers continually ask us how they can consolidate servers with
multiple operating systems through virtualization. By working together,
Novell and Microsoft enable customers to choose the operating system
that best fits their application and business needs.”
The patent agreement enables Microsoft and Novell to address the patent
issues between them, which will give customers assurance of protection
against patent infringement claims. It gives customers confidence the
technologies they use and deploy in their environments are compliant
with the two companies’ patents.
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.
“Both companies had to think creatively about how to create an
intellectual property bridge between the two worlds of open source and
proprietary software,” said Brad Smith, senior vice president and
general counsel of Microsoft. “This bridge is built on respect for the
innovations of each company, the open source community, and a passion
for what we can deliver for our customers together.”
Customer and partner reaction
Microsoft and Novell announced the new alliance at an event attended by
several customers and partners.
"We applaud Novell and Microsoft in their efforts to provide greater
Windows and Linux interoperability,” said Paul Otellini, president and
chief executive officer of Intel Corporation. “Customers want solutions
that meet their individual needs and higher levels of software
interoperability gives them the ability to more easily make the best
“This technology and business collaboration provides a model that allows
Microsoft and Novell to develop new solutions to enable open source and
proprietary software to work better together in a mixed source
environment. We applaud these two companies for doing the hard work to
build a bridge between Windows and Linux,” said Shane Robison, EVP,
Chief Strategy & Technology Officer, Hewlett-Packard Company.
"IBM is encouraged to see more industry endorsement of mixed source
solutions that promote open standards and offer assurances to customers
and open communities," said Steve Mills, Senior Vice President and Group
Executive, IBM Software. "We are particularly glad to see Microsoft
supporting interoperability with the industry standard Open Document
Format. Open Documents give customers choice and help unlock broad
industry creativity, allowing access to a new generation of innovative
applications. Our view continues to be that interoperability and choice
are key values that customers demand and deserve."
“SAP has been the first enterprise application vendor to run our apps on
Linux, while we have more Windows based deployments than any other
platform,” said Shai Agassi, President Product and Technology at SAP.
“Today's announcement means that customers can now choose their
preferred operating system for each part of their SAP implementation
with the confidence that the systems will have strong interoperability
and be supported by SAP, Novell and Microsoft - both companies being
strong SAP partners”
"One of the key challenges in government is IT interoperability. We
commend Microsoft and Novell for their collaboration and their efforts
to build bridges in the interoperability area, which will help
government to better serve our customers, our business community and our
citizens," said Thomas Jarrett, Secretary of the Department of
Technology/CIO, State of Delaware.
Good for the open source community
Novell officials noted that one of their priorities in working toward
the agreement with Microsoft was making sure that the agreement made
sense for the open source community. As part of today's agreement,
Novell and Microsoft are announcing three important commitments. First,
Microsoft will work with Novell and actively contribute to several open
source software projects, including projects focused on office file
formats and web services management. Second, Microsoft will not assert
its patents against individual non-commercial open source developers and
users. And third, Microsoft is promising not to assert its patents
against individual contributors to openSUSE.org whose code is included
in the SUSE Linux Enterprise platform, including SUSE Linux Enterprise
Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop.
"Today's announcement by Microsoft and Novell marks a significant
milestone in the adoption of Linux," said Stuart Cohen, CEO, Open Source
Development Labs. "By choosing a course of co-opetition, Microsoft
acknowledges the critical role that open source plays today in
enterprise IT infrastructure. We appreciate the role Novell is playing
to help bridge the gap between Microsoft and the open source community.
We are glad to see these two companies collaborating to further diminish
the legal threat posed to developers and customers by patent assertions.
This is good for customer confidence in Linux, good for the open source
community, and the broader IT ecosystem."
Additional announcement details
Like many commercial transactions, the financial terms of the agreement
are not being disclosed at this time.
Under the technical collaboration agreement, the companies will create a
joint research facility and pursue new software solutions for
virtualization, management, and document format compatibility. These are
potentially huge markets – IDC projects the overall market for virtual
machine software to be $1.8 billion by 2010, and the overall market for
distributed system management software to be $10.2 billion by 2010 – and
the companies believe their investment in interoperability will make
their respective products more attractive to customers.
Under the business collaboration agreement, the companies will pursue a
variety of joint marketing activities. In addition, Microsoft will
annually purchase as part of a resale arrangement approximately 70,000
coupons, with a mix of priority and standard support, for SUSE Linux
Enterprise Server maintenance subscriptions. This program enables
customers to benefit from the use of the new software solutions
developed through the collaborative research effort, as well as a
version of Linux that is covered with respect to Microsoft’s IP rights.
Under the patent agreement, both companies will make up-front payments
in exchange for a release from any potential liability for use of each
others patented intellectual property, with a net balancing payment from
Microsoft to Novell reflecting the larger applicable volume of
Microsoft’s product shipments. Novell will also make running royalty
payments based on a percentage of its revenues from open source products.
The parties are assessing the accounting treatment for the agreements
and will provide information as required in the course of their filings
with the SEC.
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