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The Microsoft-Novell Alliance Keeps on Giving

When Microsoft and Novell Inc. announced an alliance in November 2006, the big question was whether the announcement was referring to hype for some short-term mutual advantage-or to a real deal.

Now, 18 months later, the answer appears to be the latter, with the two IT giants keeping busy both at their joint lab in Cambridge, Mass., and in their executive conference rooms.

Virtualization Solution
The latest development is that the companies have a new joint virtualization solution for running Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server as a guest operating system on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. In a September statement, the companies billed the offering as providing customers "with the first complete, fully supported and optimized virtualization solution to span Windows and Linux environments."

The joint virtualization solution is being delivered by channel companies at this point. Participants include Computer Integrated Services Company of New York LLC, Continental Resources Inc., Dell Inc., Insight Enterprises Inc., Total Tec Systems Inc., and 21 Vianet Inc.

Those partners are either large-scale distributors or are already major partners of both Microsoft and Novell, says Brent Phillips, Microsoft's senior product manager for Intellectual Property and Licensing. But both Microsoft and Novell are looking for additional help in the channel. "We're beginning with a certain number of partners, but we're really looking to scale that," Phillips says.

Virtualization is just one of the technical aspects that Microsoft and Novell are pursuing in the partnership, which is scheduled to run through 2012.

Business-Side Collaboration
According to Joshua Dorfman, senior product marketing manager for Linux and Open Platform Solutions at Novell, the companies are also working on standards-based systems management, identity and directory federation, document format interoperability, accessibility for ISVs and an open source implementation of Microsoft Silverlight called Moonlight.

Collaboration is ongoing on the business side as well. As part of the 2006 agreement, Microsoft bought up $240 million worth of certificates that customers could use to pay for expanded support of Novell products, including enterprise Linux systems. As of late August, Novell had invoiced $157 million of those, and Microsoft was to pay Novell an additional $100 million on Nov. 1 for more of the certificates to stay ahead of demand.

Joint Microsoft-Novell customers to date include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., HSBC Holdings, Renault, Southwest Airlines Co. and BMW.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.