A Year of Microsoft and Novell Partnership

One year after former arch-rivals Microsoft and Novell partner up, what has resulted from their alliance?

At the time, the news that Novell and Microsoft were becoming partners was shocking. But, a year into the alliance, what has really come from it? The analysts give their two cents on the first, and most surprising, of the Microsoft and Linux vendor partnerships.

According to the companies, the deal has exceeded its original business targets. "This agreement has been about the customer since day one," said Jeff Jaffe, Novells executive vice president and chief technology officer in a statement. "Customers told us they wanted Linux and Windows to work better together so they could focus on their businesses. By taking a leading position in delivering interoperability with Microsoft, Novell is becoming the preferred Linux choice for the integrated enterprise, a fact borne out by the significant sales increase weve seen over the past year."

Bob Muglia, Microsofts senior vice president of the server and tools business group, focused on Linux and Windows interoperability. "As we mark the one-year anniversary of our relationship, we are very pleased with the customer support we have received for a solution that provides cross-platform interoperability," he said.

At the same time, sources close to both companies said Microsoft insisted that the press release include the line "the companies continue to see strong demand for interoperability and intellectual property (IP) peace of mind." According to sources close to Novell and Novell partners, there is no real demand for "IP peace of mind."

Despite Microsofts recent rash of warnings that Linux and open-source software in some way violate the Windows companys patents, customers appear not to be considering this as a major issue in their operating system buying decisions. The patent clauses in the Novell/Microsoft partnership still give many open-source advocates heartburn as can be seen by the still active Boycott Novell site.

While the companies claim that the partnership has resulted in many new customers for Novell, analysts arent sure thats really been the case. A survey of enterprise users of the open-source Alfresco enterprise content management software this summer found that deployments of Red Hat Linux have grown twice as fast as those for Novell SUSE Linux since Novell signed its controversial patent and interoperability agreement with Microsoft in November 2006.


To read more about the Novell/Microsoft patent agreement, click here.

Indeed, Dan Kusnetzky, principal analyst of the Kusnetzky Group said that, "Other than offending many members of the open-source community, Ive not seen a great deal of impact or benefit to Novell that can be attributed to its agreement with Microsoft."

Gordon Haff, senior analyst for research house Illuminata, is a bit more optimistic about the deals results. "Its been more incremental than revolutionary. If one steps back, its hard to see any broad market shifts as a result of the alliance. That isnt to say that some of the incremental changes arent welcome. It will likely end up leading to better integration of Linux and Windows in virtual environments, for example."

Only George Weiss, a Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, was bullish about the partnership.

"The results continue to indicate that there are resilient legs to this relationship based on a couple solid motivating factors," he said.

Weiss explained, "First: CIO/CXOs/Data Center Directors are deeply concerned about protection from patent infringements and that a mutually beneficial common ground has been reached by both Microsoft and Novell that is also beneficial to users as well. And though many silos and cultural conflicts still exist, at least in the larger enterprises that face the realities of supporting and administering heterogeneous environments, the objective is to reduce operational costs, simplify infrastructures and create better levels of integration."

"Microsoft must let Linux in the door if it ever hopes to become the high level manager in heterogeneous and virtualized infrastructures," Weiss continued. "And Novell needs credibility and the cachet of mounting an earnest endeavor to bridge barriers to interoperability and accumulated trust for its software products to run in both Linux and non-Linux environments."


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