Corporate acquisitions dont always result in increased customer choice. Often, its the opposite. However, Novells recent acquisition of SuSE should broaden choice among enterprise operating system platforms by increasing the legitimacy and attractiveness of Linux. Choice is welcome because it spurs vendors to improve products and cut prices. But its particularly important at a time when experts suggest that the monoculture of a single operating system platform is intrinsically vulnerable to virus attacks and security breaches.
This choice will become reality, however, only if Novell can capitalize on its synergies with SuSE.
Both SuSE and Red Hat have made big strides in earning credibility as enterprise vendors, but neither approaches the reach and experience Novell has in deploying to large enterprises and supporting those deployments. Novell also has broad penetration throughout the channels, with deals with numerous consultants and service companies, something that pure Linux vendors have been struggling to emulate.
Most important, the previous purchase of Ximian gives Novell Linux desktop tools and applications that, along with Novells line of management, security, directory and collaboration applications, provide the best top-to-bottom platform of any Linux vendor.
Despite the convincing portfolio, skepticism is warranted. Novell must prove it can do an acquisition right. It doesnt have the best track record in acquiring products and increasing their market share. And buying a Linux company could be a serious challenge, as Linux products evolve faster than Novells traditional product lines. Novell will have to gear up to keep revisions coming, and it will have to make sure its support staff can cope with the faster upgrade pace.
So far, Novell officials have said the right things, stating that SuSE will be maintained as a unique brand and that SuSE headquarters will stay in Germany. This should help SuSE retain its spot among the top Linux distributions.
Also favoring Novell-SuSE is Red Hats recent decision to offer only enterprise Linux. That move reinforces the growing mind share of Linux as an enterprise platform.
Further, Red Hats decision to hand its desktop products to the Fedora group suggests de-emphasis of that line, despite Red Hats claims. Novell-SuSE is likely to emerge as the only major player providing a credible enterprise Linux desktop platform. And it will be the only major provider of consumer desktop Linux.
If you are considering Linux as an enterprise platform, your choices have improved, and you should have an easier time selling Linux to upper management. The questions about Linux support can now be answered simply: With Linux comes Novells competent, professional support.
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