The move will make it simpler for clients to acquire open standards-based Linux hardware, software and services through integrated and streamlined sales, distribution, and services channels, Mark Elliott, the general manager of global solution sales and distribution at IBM, said in a media teleconference on Wednesday.
In addition, Elliott said, IBM will be giving Novell and Red Hat access to its global innovation centers, including those in the fast-growing countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and Korea, to help drive more open-source deals in those markets.
This new relationship will also result in the development of a range of new subscription models that combine IBM hardware, software and support offerings with Novell and Red Hat solutions.
In August, IBM announced a mentoring initiative to help startup companies in China, India, Russia and Brazil more easily develop solutions based on open-standards technology by giving their developers instant access to IBM hardware and software, right from their desktops.
Novell and Red Hat have also committed to support IBMs open platforms, including the Java-based Apache Geronimo Web server and Apache Derby database, along with continued support for the Eclipse development platform.
"Six years ago IBM had committed to Linux and open source with a $1 billion investment. At that time we said our commitment to Linux was designed to make it easier for clients to get access to open standards-based solutions, which was something they wanted. We now have some 12,000 enterprise Linux deployments worldwide," Elliott said.
Having Novell and Red Hat join IBMs Strategic Alliance program, where they will now rank among its top ten partners, was probably among the most "significant announcements we have made around Linux and open source since we made the $1 billion announcement some six years ago," he said.
Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide Linux strategy and open source at IBM, said IBM now accounts for some 29.7 percent of annual Linux server revenue, and had reported revenue of more than $1 billion related to hardware, software and services for Linux in the third quarter. "We are now generating as much revenue around Linux a quarter as we initially invested those years ago," he said.
IBM will also now be working to get customer subscriptions for both the Red Hat and Novell Linux operating systems, along with selling its hardware, middleware and services, Handy said.
"This will make the buying experience easier for customers and allow them to integrate Linux more easily into their existing solutions and the solutions they buy from us," he said.
Big Blue will also, for the first time, have a dedicated sales force focused on all these Linux and IBM solutions and offerings. "We have already started hiring these sales people," Handy added.
Handy said there had also been an alignment around open-source technologies beyond Linux within IBM, which started with the application development Eclipse environment that was open-sourced in November 2001. At the same time, Red Hat and Novell had embraced Eclipse and had helped make it a mainstream technology.
"We recently announced that we were going to adopt Apache Geronimo as our open-source J2EE [Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition] application server, and we acquired Gluecode, a company that was selling a distribution of that, which has been renamed WebSphere Community Edition. Under this latest announcement, Red Hat and Novell have agreed to help promote an open-source stack and solutions around that," Handy said.
Handy also said Novell would be packaging Apache Geronimo in the next version of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, which already included the Apache Derby Java database in SUSE Linux 10. Red Hat has also agreed to provide IBMs WebSphere Community Edition on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and to help IBM promote Apache Geronimo and Derby.
"We think the same relationship that existed between us and our partners around Linux will continue with other open-source solutions now, and that is very significant," Handy said.
Hal Bennett, the vice president for global partnerships at Novell, said the company was excited by this latest move as it truly validated its strategy in the open-source space and was an extension of the existing partnership between the two companies.
"This is all about customers, and they have been wanting us to do more like this with partners like IBM. This folds in well with our strategy of providing software for the open enterprise," he said.
Tim Yeaton, the senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Red Hat, was also upbeat about the move, which he said expanded the existing partnership between Red Hat and IBM and solidified the strategic nature of the partnership between the two firms.