A number of enterprise customers have already signed up for 16,000 of the 70,000 annual SUSE Linux enterprise subscription certificates Microsoft is offering under its recent, controversial deal with Novell.
Heading the list of customers taking advantage of those certificates are Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse and AIG Technologies, all of whom have welcomed the interoperability moves between Microsoft and Novell.
Microsoft and Novell announced Nov. 2 a set of broad collaboration agreements to build, market and support a series of new solutions that will make Novell and Microsoft products work better together.
They also announced an agreement to provide each others customers with patent coverage for their respective products that will remain in place until at least 2012.
As part of that deal, Microsoft also said it will distribute 70,000 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.
Microsoft said Dec. 20 that the primary reasons behind these customer moves are the benefits of interoperability, the patent cooperation agreement and the road map for bidirectional virtualization solutions.
Susan Hauser, Microsofts general manager of customer advocacy, told eWEEK Dec. 20 that no existing Microsoft software seats were lost under these three agreements.
But it did not take long for the unhappiness about the deal, particularly from the free and open-source community, to spill out into the open. Further roiling the waters were comments from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that the deal indicates that Linux does indeed violate some of Microsofts patents.
But some enterprise customers, such as Clemens Jochum, the chief technology officer of Deutsche Bank, which is an existing and significant user of software from both Novell and Microsoft, welcome the collaboration between the two companies.
While employing both Windows and Linux in the company always seems to be the right thing to do, "making the systems work together would require a significant amount of time and resources. The agreement between Microsoft and Novell gives us the benefit of choice of platforms and tremendous flexibility that will help make our company more competitive and efficient," he said.
Tom Sanzone, chief information officer at Credit Suisse, was also upbeat about the newfound interoperability, saying this is key for his company.
"We see both Windows and SUSE Linux as strategic platforms going forward, and were very pleased to see Microsoft and Novell, who support these platforms, step up and work on interoperability. This is a great model because it provides a bridge to connect the open-source and proprietary software to benefit customers," he said.
For his part, Mark Popolano, the global chief information officer for AIG, said its critical that the firms technology offerings be forward-looking, integrated and positioned to support its mission of delivering high value at market price.
"Microsoft and Novells commitment to working together to deliver interoperability and IP assurance helps us achieve that mission. Our goal of engaging in this pilot program is to explore how we can become a more flexible organization," he said.
These latest customer deals come hot on the heels of the release of the results of a Microsoft-Novell sponsored survey, here in PDF form, which found that technology decision makers are very upbeat about the agreement to improve interoperability between Windows Server and SUSE Linux.
Ron Hovsepian, the president and CEO of Novell, said in a statement that this customer support of the deal offers "powerful, early proof points of the value of our joint collaboration, and we expect more success stories like this over the coming quarters.
"By solving a real customer problem, taking the complexity out of the customers hands and addressing it ourselves, we create a compelling incentive for customers to deploy Linux. This shows that SUSE Linux Enterprise is, in fact, absolutely ready for the data center," he said.
Steve Ballmer, Microsofts CEO, reiterated that its customers have been very clear that they want Windows and Linux to work better together in mixed-source environments, adding that hes pleased that customers are moving quickly to take advantage of the value of the interoperability commitments and intellectual property benefits of the collaboration with Novell.
But some in the free and open-source community, like the Samba team, have openly expressed their unhappiness with the patent provision in the deal and have asked Novell to undo it.
In a public letter to Novell, Samba—which provides free software for systems running Linux and Unix with Windows-compatible file and print services—said that it "disapproves strongly" of the actions taken by Novell, of Waltham, Mass.
"The patent agreement struck between Novell and Microsoft is a divisive agreement … For Novell to make this deal shows a profound disregard for the relationship that they have with the free software community. We are, in essence, their suppliers, and Novell should know that they have no right to make self serving deals on behalf of others which run contrary to the goals and ideals of the free software community," Samba said in the letter.
Others, such as open-source luminary Bruce Perens, have asked community members to sign an open letter to Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian that says the software patent agreement between Novell and Microsoft "betrays the rest of the free software community, including the very people who wrote Novells own system, for Novells sole financial benefit."
More than 2,900 people have signed the letter so far.
Richard Stallman, the leader of the Free Software Foundation, also warned in a speech at the fifth international GPLv3 conference in Tokyo on Nov. 21 that the Novell-Microsoft deal was an example of how software patents could be used to threaten users.
Microsoft had not given Novell a patent license, but instead, had offered a patent license that is limited to Novells customers alone, he said.
"It turns out that perhaps its a good thing that Microsoft did this now, because we discovered that the text we had written for GPL version 3 would not have blocked this, but its not too late, and were going to make sure that when GPL version 3 really comes out it will block such deals," Stallman said.
But others, such as Jason Perlow, a systems architect and open-source specialist with Unisyss 3D Visual Enterprise High Performance center in Malvern, Pa., take a more measured approach to the deal.
He said that any cooperation between Microsoft and a Linux vendor is a positive thing, particularly from the perspective of a systems integrator.
"As long as the open-source community is not encumbered with any responsibility or admission of patent guilt or liability to Microsoft, this is a good scenario for the IT business community," he said.