Microsoft, Novell toast anniversary with tools, support coupons

Two-year mark of agreement sees new releases

Marking the two-year anniversary of their partnership, Microsoft and Novell are releasing tools to help users manage and support SUSE Linux. The news was preceded by a new Microsoft investment in the partnership that took effect on November 1 and calls for the vendor to purchase up to US$100 million (NZ$184 million) in additional Novell SUSE Linux support coupons to distribute to users. Microsoft announced in August its intention to make the investment, which lines up with a portion of the recent announcement that calls for the coupons to cover Novell's new SUSE Linux Enterprise Server Subscription with Expanded Support. Novell unveiled the expanded support option earlier this month as a way to entice users to migrate from Red Hat and the CentOS to SUSE Linux. In addition to support for SUSE, the certificates provide Red Hat and CentOS server users with binaries built from source code publicly released by Red Hat for its platform. All the pieces of the partnership are part of a cross-patent licensing deal the two signed in 2006 that outlined a five-year business and technology deal that also included intellectual property rights protection, an arrangement that drew the ire of open source advocates. Microsoft and Novell have also announced they will release a management module called the Advanced Management Pack for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2, which is slated to ship before the end of November. The pair also announced a free beta download of Novell's Moonlight, a clone of Microsoft's rich-client Silverlight browser plug-in. The news comes on the heels of a September release of the first fully supported joint product the two have produced under the partnership. The duo used technology developed at the Microsoft/Novell Interoperability Lab they opened just more than a year ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to configured and optimised Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to run as a guest operating system on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. Experts say the deal is benefitting both vendors and has helped IT integrate Windows and Linux platforms, including the Red Hat operating system. "Overall, Novell has benefited on its bottom-line business revenue and that is pertinent," says Jay Lyman, an analyst with the 451 Group. "For Microsoft, it has given them a way to be a part of Linux adoption. It was pretty significant two years ago when Microsoft entered this deal. It showed they realized that Linux is in the market to stay and it would have been foolish for Microsoft not to have a Linux integration story. This deal has given them that." It has also given Microsoft a way to battle against Red Hat, the market-leading Linux distribution for IT. Lyman says Microsoft's other efforts, led mainly by Sam Ramji, who runs the Open Source Software Lab for Microsoft and is the company's director of open source technology strategy, is another big part of the equation. "Some of the other things Microsoft is doing are more significant in terms of open source, such as supporting open source software outside the operating system," Lyman says. Those efforts include Microsoft's Open Specification Promise, which makes some Microsoft protocols available for use without fear of patent infringement, and Microsoft's first code contribution to the PHP community. "I don't think Microsoft wants to take on open source. That is not an enemy you want to have," Lyman says.

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