Postscript: Microsoft, Novell Offer Partnership Progress Report

When Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. announced a major agreement last November, some observers hailed the tie between the two long-time rivals as historic, perhaps even miraculous. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer even released a statement acknowledging widespread industry skepticism, noting: "They said it couldn't be done."

But Microsoft and Novell did do it, agreeing to a deal that promised interoperability between Windows and Novell's SuSE Linux platform. The deal drew criticism form the open source community and prompted talk that the Free Software Foundation, a Boston-based advocacy group, might try to alter the next version of the General Public License for Linux to make it difficult, or even impossible, for Novell to sell Linux. That issue is as yet unresolved.

Still, the two partners pressed on, and, in January, they announced that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had bought into the deal and would buy SuSE Linux Enterprise Server certificates from Microsoft for use in its infrastructure. With momentum building, partners waited patiently to find out what new developments the Microsoft-Novell alliance would produce. In February, the two companies offered a progress report.

In a statement, Microsoft and Novell said that the partnership would bear fruit initially in four areas: virtualization, Web services for managing physical and virtual servers, directory and identity interoperability, and document-format compatibility.

On the virtualization front, the companies said that their roadmap would ultimately include allowing customers to host Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 as a virtualized guest on an upcoming service pack of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2, host Enterprise Server 10 as an enlightened guest on the next version of Microsoft Windows Server (better known by its code name, "Longhorn"), and host Longhorn as a paravirtualized guest on Enterprise Server 10.

The statement said that Novell was working with the open source community to develop an open source implementation of Microsoft's Web Services for Management specification. It also said that the companies were developing a series of interoperability demonstrations and that Novell would be working on a bidirectional translator for two document file formats, the open source Open Document Format and Microsoft's Open XML format.

The roadmap didn't offer much that wasn't already in the works, Al Gillen, research vice president for system software at IDC, the Framingham, Mass.-based research and analysis firm, noted in an IDC Link comment on the joint statement.

"At a high level, the announcement doesn't introduce a dramatically larger list of short-term deliverables that were not otherwise in development or disclosed in other announcements," Gillen writes.

Nevertheless, he writes, product-specific announcements with details promised to follow are a positive step, and the deal should yield benefits for customers--if the companies deliver on their promises.

"Microsoft and Novell are establishing the criteria on which they will be measured-and they will surely be measured by this yardstick," Gillen wrote. "Both companies realize this and are confident they'll be graded high. If that is to happen, it will be the customers who will be the big winners."

And if customers end up being big winners, then the partners selling to them should score some victories as well.

About the Author

Lee Pender is Redmond Channel Partner magazine's senior editor. You can reach him at [email protected].


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