Another week, another Linux bombshell: In late October, it was Oracle offering full support of Red Hat Enterprise Linux; on Nov. 2, it was Novell teaming up with longtime archenemy Microsoft to effect platform integration and patent protection.
Together, the two moves signify a tectonic shift in the Linux landscape and big wins for customers—if the agreements bear fruit. Right now there is a lot more meat on the Oracle-Red Hat relationship: Oracle already has its Linux code available for download. Microsoft and Novells arrangement right now is just talk. And based on a similar deal Microsoft made with Sun Microsystems two years ago—which has produced few tangible results—we are going to be skeptical of this deal until results convince us otherwise.
Still, Microsofts deal with Novell has the potential to be more significant in the long run. On the product side, the two companies plan to develop virtualization technologies that will enable Microsoft Windows to run within a virtual environment in Novells SUSE Linux and SUSE Linux to run within Windows, each virtualization scheme drawing on Xen technology. Other areas of coordination will be between Microsofts Active Directory and Novells eDirectory, as well as between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org.
The patent agreement will allow Novell Linux customers and developers access to Microsoft patents—protection that will be in place at least until 2012. Well and good, but what about other Linux distributions? This deal will protect SUSE Linux customers but not customers of Red Hat or others, leaving them open to patent lawsuits from Microsoft. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at the agreements announcement that he is open to talking with other Linux distributors.
If Ballmer is sincere, then thats good news. If hes not, however, the software industry and enterprise customers are still stuck in a quagmire of poor interoperability and doubt over patent lawsuit vulnerability. Even worse, the Linux community may be divided into rival camps. We think its great that Microsoft is striking interoperability deals. We urge Microsoft to move quickly to achieve its several integration goals with Novell and show enterprise customers the kind of tangible results that convert skeptics. And we urge Microsoft to pursue negotiations with other Linux distributors with all due speed and in good faith.
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eWeeks Editorial Board consists of Jason Brooks, Stan Gibson and Scot Petersen.
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