Novell, Microsoft Celebrate 3rd Year of Interoperability

Microsoft and Novell celebrated the third year of their interoperability agreement at an event taking place at the Society for Information Management, SIMposium09, conference in Seattle on Nov. 9.

Microsoft and Novell celebrated the third year of their interoperability agreement at an event taking place at the Society for Information Management, SIMposium09, conference in Seattle on Nov. 9.

Indeed, three years after Microsoft and Novell first signed their groundbreaking interoperability collaboration agreement, more than 475 customers have successfully future-proofed their Windows and Linux IT operations by helping ensure business continuity, minimize risk and optimize mixed-source infrastructure, said Susan Heystee, vice president and general manager for Strategic Alliances at Novell.

And the companies said more than 20 of these new joint customers have signed up for a subscription service launched a year ago by Novell. The service provides expanded support, and for customers running other Linux distributions, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the support subscriptions qualify them for intellectual property (IP) peace of mind from Microsoft, while they transition to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server from Novell.

"We've grown the number of customers by 58 percent," Heystee said in an interview with eWEEK. She said the two companies have focused on three primary areas: eliminating business constraints by expanding support, mitigating risk and enhancing interoperability solutions.

"Forward-thinking companies are realizing the benefits of an interoperability collaboration designed to address the mixed-source realities we're facing today and will continue to face tomorrow," said Ted MacLean, general manager for Strategic Partnerships and Licensing at Microsoft, in a statement. "Over the past three years, we have demonstrated our interoperability dedication time and again through the delivery of cross-platform technical solutions that carry the benefits of IP peace of mind. These solutions, coupled with Novell's proven technical support programs, make it easier than ever for our customers to have confidence that their existing infrastructure investments will serve them well into the future."

Business continuity was cited as a key factor for customers signing up for Novell's new SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with Expanded Support service subscription. Novell extended its offerings through its collaboration agreement with Microsoft last year to help ensure that those using Red Hat or unsupported distributions of Linux also could benefit. With this offering, customers can elect to receive support for their existing operations for up to three years, and as part of this support, receive the IP peace of mind provided by Microsoft.

"Novell's enterprise-grade Linux systems support offerings give IT executives immediate flexibility and control over their disparate Linux distributions without sacrifice," Heystee said in a statement. "In addition to support for legacy systems, we have also seen a growing number of organizations opt to use our Expanded Support service to help them press forward with plans to consolidate their Linux-based operations from Red Hat and other distributions onto SUSE Linux Enterprise Server."

MoneyGram International Inc., which provides money transfer and bill payment services across a global agent network spanning 190 countries and territories, is one of more than 20 companies that have taken this step, MacLean told eWEEK. "When we chose to migrate from Red Hat to Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), we were looking for a highly available solution that would help minimize and ideally eliminate service interruptions, reduce maintenance and licensing costs, utilize our Windows Server investments, and make it possible to support growing business demands," said Paul Boespflug, senior manager of technology services for MoneyGram International, in a statement. "As a result of standardizing our Linux infrastructure, and leveraging the Expanded Support offering from Novell, our systems are more cohesive, and we have been able to realize immediate cost reductions and improve our system reliability and stability."

Greg Lamm, director of information technology at Connexion Technologies, which is a customer of both Novell and Microsoft, said the biggest benefit he has seen from the Novell/Microsoft collaborative agreement is "we've seen some really great support from both Novell and Microsoft on this. And we've been able to combine that support into one offering. So there's no finger pointing back and forth."

Connexion Technologies designs, builds, rents and operates Fiber to the Home (FTTH) networks in residential properties throughout the U.S., Lamm said. Connexion Technologies migrated from unsupported Linux to Novell SLES on the back end to simplify support and improve the resilience of its IT infrastructure to meet the demands of its rapidly expanding business, he said.

"We've seen some nice momentum in the context of a challenging economic environment," MacLean said. "And we've taken advantage of opportunities to help customers take out cost and run more efficient data centers."

As of the end of Novell's third fiscal quarter, which ended July 31, 2009, the two companies have sold $226 million in certificates for Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server support and maintenance.

Through the Microsoft and Novell Joint Interoperability Lab in Cambridge, Mass., engineers from both companies have been working side by side to create technical solutions that help address customer challenges related to the complexity of managing and administering mixed-source environments.

"For customers considering a dual-platform strategy with Windows Server and a widely used Linux server product, they will come to realize that the interoperability between Microsoft and Novell platforms helps offer a clear advantage in cost reduction," said Wang Lei, project manager, China Telecom Ningxia Branch, in a statement. "As a long-standing customer of Microsoft using Windows Server, we require optimized virtualization solutions and the ability to expand the capacity of our system administration. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server from Novell is an ideal choice for the Linux systems we operate and manage."

Chris Voce, an analyst with Forrester Research, said, "From a Microsoft perspective we've seem a climate shift over the last couple of years from a combative stance against open source to more of a stance of 'coopetition.'"

Voce also noted that although the Novell/Microsoft agreement was initially viewed with skepticism by many observers, the deal later gained a level of acceptance "because there is some real, clear benefit for customers there," he said.