Notes on Microsoft/Novell Anouncement: SUSE Linux/Windows Interoperablity

(Article Draft – Corrections will be made to spelling and grammar – These views are mine coming as fast as I can type with the live announcement. I apologies for any typos/misquotes/misinterpretations.)

Microsoft and Novell made an abrupt disclosure via their web cast site that there would be a VERY IMPORTANT announcement. That announcement occurred at 2:19pm PST/5:19pmEST. This announcement is important to large scale Enterprise and Server/datacenter operators as well as the developer community. It offers more choices, opportunties and technologies to IT operators around the world.

You may view the WebCast session in its entirety using any with these links:

Please, as you listen to the session, if I can enhance or correct any of my notes, please let me know in a comment on this post.

Steve Ballmer started the anoucement by stating that Microsoft and Novell are “Bridging the divide between Closed/Open Source and Linux/Windows”. With this agreement they have worked out how to work together with customers to emphasize Virtualization and Interoperability solutions. Throughout the annoucment these were the two main buzzwords. Virtualization and Interoperability. (Editor (me): Obviously this will have a major impact on the ongoing war between Microsoft and VMWare. This is a pretty big blow to VMWare. Even though, VMWare already does allow the each OS to run on top of the other, the licensing was always questionable. Because MS endorses SUSE (Pronounced by Steve as SoosZay – I always wondered), this will likely be the preferred route for major enterprise. – Brian)

He continued to say, as did others throughout, that MS and Novell will still compete and push their own Operating Systems and solutions, but they will now cooperate as well. If a particular solution, or customer preference, indicates the other OS is appropriate, there is now a way forward. Only Novell SUSE Linux has entered into this agreement. All other flavors are right out.

Ron Hovsepian from Novell reports:he wishes first of to thank Microsoft committed a large amount of financial resources dedicated, by Microsoft, to the engineering process. He empasized this several times.

There are four things he wanted to emphasize with this deal

  • Financial contributions. A significant sum of money has been given form Microsoft to Novell to help forward this agreement and future technologies that come out of it (The tech guy that spoke next mentioned several generations of software)

  • MS dedicated its sales staff to selling SUSE Linux “subscriptions” (editor – I was surprised at that term but it was used several times. This related some how to the “Patent Covenent” that Enterprise SUSE users will receive.)

  • MS has committed to redistribute 70,000 SUSE Enterprise subscriptions – With their product? Free give away? unspecified.

  • This promots respect between the two companies and the related patents

Jeff Jaffe – Chief Technical Officer for Novell

Three ways it will strengthen Open Source

  • MS will work on Interoperability between Windows and Linux. This raises OS’s opportunity to a new level

  • MS will not assert Patent Abridgment claims against INDIVIDUAL patent infringement claims against individual non-commercial open source developers

  • MS and Novell will cooperate on management and development. Novel engineers are excited about this.

Three areas of Tech Collaboration

  • Virtualization – You can run Linux workloads on windows or run Windows apps virtualized under windows using “PARA Virtualization” (????)

  • Web Services Management – You have both types of servers – now the server tools EDirectory and Active Directory merge

  • Open Document frame work- Joint work on Open office and Microsoft office.

Taken all together Microsoft and Novel will work together to further Open Source.

Brad Smith (Patent Lawyer)
“There was no area that we had to work harder or more creatively then addressing patent areas involved.”
This agreement represents things never done before in the industry:

  • Addressing the proprietary technology disclosure issues
  • Build the bridge between two competing philosophies

Microsoft has pioneered the server research area (editor: This section is a bit inaccurate. I missed the “and” here. I wasn’t expecting him to say something worth noting and was working on the header.) and has the largest patent portfolio for technology in the world. All of the attorneys worked it out and built a bridge that respected the needs of both business models and the needs of the companies in both business areas. Additionally respecting the rights of the previously licensed material
Every customer that purchase a subscription for SUSE will get a “patent covenant” from Microsoft. Novel is the only Linux vender that gives you this opportunity: the ability to create code to run on Linux, service and support of MS and the patent covenant that allows you to run the Window technologies.
Economic commitments will be covered in the press release.
Code that Novel developers create will be incorporated into the “patent covenant”. (This sounds counter OS but we’ll see what that means.)

Shane Roberson (HP)
HP ships more Windows NT(? Is that really what he said?) than any other company in the world and ships many Linux servers as well. Novel will focus on virtualization and automation to promote a new functionality in data centers. There will be several releases.

Randy Cowen – Goldman Sachs CIO
Enterprise customers will save money and add business value.


Q. What about RedHat?
Steve: Goldman Sachs pushed for this a couple years ago. MS approached a number of players but no one responded eagerly. and Ron responded with suggestions about a mixed source environments in April. (Editor – NEVER in the announcement did anyone on stage mention or acknowlege the existence of ANY of other flavour of Linux. Even when answering this question. The long and short of it is that they other flavours had their chance and now they are out in the cold… Novell IS the answer for corporate Linux -That’s not a bad thing I think. I run SUSE at home. It’s pretty nice. Comparable to windows and will continue along that way now I should think. However, I do not know if this will impact OpenSUSE very much. That’s the question I would have asked if I were there. – B)

Q. Who Initiated it and how long did it happen?
A. Ron approached Kevin Turner (former Wal-Mart executive now MS COO) in April. They had a relationship from Kevin’s Walmart days and Ron reminded him of the issues that he faced then. Kevin then approached Steve and (?) to discuss the oportunity. Steve saw this dovetailing with the feelers they’d had out in the industry for the last couple years, trying to appease Randy Cowen of Goldman Sachs. Then they all met in May as Kevin. (Editor – I presume Shane Roberson was brought in at this point to discuss data center needs). The deal progressed from there to the annoucement today Nov. 02, 2006.

Q. Oracle announced a focus on Linux last week. Now there this announcement. Is this a large swing to Open Source? How will this change the environment?
A. We’re still competetors. We’ll push for our own tools first but offer secondary solutions as well. There is no big swing occuring here.

Q. Any affect on Novel’s suit against MS over the Office Software?
A. No, that is still on going. The agreement was regarding Operating Systems only.

Q. Does the convenant cover already exist code or just code yet to come?
A. It covers both already existing (Operating Systems related) technologies and future technologies will be covered as well (editor there was a flavor to this answer indicating that some would and some would not be covered. In my opinion. – b). This applies ONLY to SUSE Linux. (Editor- Again pushing that SUSE is the only way to go. MS will be pushing SUSE so hard it will be interesting to see if the offer of patented technologies to the individual developers will win over the masses of Linux home users or if there will be a backlash angainst SUSE. – b)

Q. Will this be available for Christmas? (Asked only half jokingly)
A. Business availablity EOY End users first Q next year.

(Editor – It was funny, you could hear some of the reporters and news casters scratching their heads and chewing their pencils (styli?) as they tried to get a sound bite that would be usable to their audiences. Some of them really had no idea what all this meant. The podium had not, to this point, realized that they were speaking over the heads of the people in the room until these last questions. As a result there were four separate summary conclusions offered, each one trying to translate this more precisely to the non-geeks. Each using fewer and shorter words. It was quite humorous.)

1. Both Operating systems will work together on the same machine legally – either can sit on top of the other as a “guest”.
2. Patent “Piece of Mind” is what IT managers and Open Source developers get out of this.

The final summary summarization was:
To IT people this means there are twice as many applications available to all of the people.

Related Blog posts:
Chris at GizBUZZ offers another good summary of the announcement.


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