VARs: It's A Linux World After All

"If you're selling Linux, this is a big boost," said Tom Derosier, co-owner of CPU Guys, a Hanson, Mass., solution provider. "This makes Linux more attractive to customers of all sizes. This gives us a reason to go out and look at selling and supporting SUSE Linux. It definitely opens up another avenue for us."

Derosier praised Microsoft for knocking down technical barriers that could hamper Windows-to-Linux interoperability. "Improving interoperability between Windows and Linux is just an awesome move by Microsoft," he said. "You have to give them a lot of credit."

Microsoft and Novell late Thursday held a press conference in San Francisco announcing a far-reaching pact aimed at bridging the technical, legal and financial divide that separates the Windows and SUSE Linux worlds.

The pact reduces the partner investment necessary to build integrated Linux-Windows solutions, said Leonard DiCostanzo, business technology officer for Turnkey Computer, a Staten Island, N.Y., solution provider. Not only that, it opens the door for a new generation of Linux products, said DiCostanzo, who was an advisor on a Microsoft reseller council in the late 90s. At that time, DiCostanzo said he had urged Microsoft to work more closely with Novell.

Sponsored post

"This has come full circle," he said. "Now instead of blowing Novell out of the water, they are looking to work together on behalf of partners and customers. My feeling has always been that coopetition among vendors is one of the most economy-changing components of a solution provider offering."

"This is a very good thing. The world is a heterogeneous place, and playing nice with others is always good for customers and ISVs," said Chris Maresca, senior partner at Olliance Group, Palo Alto, Calif., an open source consulting firm. "Windows and associated technology stacks have always tried to be ivory towers, and this sort of thing will help interoperability. Now if only Microsoft would encourage and support interoperability at the protocol level by fully documenting things like SMB (Simple Message Blocking) and MAPI (Messaging Application Programming Interface) that would really help vendors deploy heterogeneous systems."

"It makes sense," said Todd Swank, director of marketing for Nor-Tech, a Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder. "Microsoft, they're not stupid. They recognize that Linux is not going away. Companies are demanding it. If you've got a mixed environment running an Apache server, and you want to sell Microsoft workstations, they have to come up with a way to work together."

Swank said that he has not noticed significant interest in Linux on the desktop, but Nor-Tech has had sales opportunities with high-performance Linux clusters.

"Maybe this will help enable [Linux on the desktop]," he said. But, Swank said, various elements of the market have been changing noticeably, particularly in desktop applications. PC customers may now be eager to use free or low-cost-of-acquisition open source applications like OpenOffice rather than spend $300 for Microsoft Office. Having one PC that can bridge the best of both worlds could be a win-win for both the open source community and the Microsoft side of the mountain, he said.

"Take a look at Google, and their applications," Swank said, pointing to Google's entry into the productivity application space with Google Docs word-processing and spreadsheet applications. "You don't even need to set it up on your desktop. They'll do all the back-end work. It's really changed the game."

One Linux and Windows partner that specializes in data center services said a key benefit of the deal is that it establishes the Xen virtualization technology in Linux as a viable alternative to VMware. This could spell bad news for VMware, but it will accelerate the uptake of virtualization in the data center, he said.

"Xen is an integral virtualization feature of Linux that does not require additional licensing costs. Akibia anticipates that it will be an integral enhancement to Microsoft Windows Server, as well," said Ken Mclaurin, senior marketing manager of open source and virtualization at Akibia, a Westborough, Mass.-based data center services firm. "Because Xen is becoming an option with so many operating systems that have already been deployed, we anticipate much faster and wider adoption. In reaction to this, we expect to see VMware start to reduce its licensing costs, or risk losing market share to Xen. Akibia customers welcome the announcement from Microsoft because it will enable them to more effectively manage their virtualized infrastructures, a capability that is sorely lacking in the marketplace today."

Additional reporting by Steven Burke