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Novell, Microsoft Flesh Out Partnership Terms

Microsoft and Novell disclosed more of their plans to collaborate on a technology road map, with the goal of producing greater product interoperability and more stable enterprise environments in four chief areas.

Microsoft and Novell this week disclosed more of their plans to collaborate on a technology road map, with the goal of producing greater product interoperability and more stable enterprise environments in four chief areas.

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While it seems like Microsoft and Novell are strange bedfellows, it's a pretty natural fit. Microsoft wants to fend off VMware as it encroaches on Microsoft's server territory. To do so, it must be an excellent virtual host for other operating systems, and that's where Novell can help. For it's part Novell's SUSE Linux can only be helped by working seamlessly in Windows environments. While all that makes this announcement reasonable, history indicates that we should wait until we see the results before drawing any conclusions. Intending seamless support and actually delivering it are two very different things.

Art Wittmann
NWC Editor-in-Chief


Novell continues to deny that any known patent issues exist in Linux, while Microsoft claims there is infringement, but says it won't sue Novell customers because of the agreement. This kind of public squabbling only breeds FUD. Microsoft should let the open-source community know what areas of Linux it believes infringe on Windows so the matter can be resolved once and for all. Furthermore, Microsoft shouldn't require a formal agreement before working with Linux vendors to improve interoperability. Novell, having entered into the agreement, further perpetuates the notion that non-SUSE Linux customers are at risk of being sued by Microsoft, which gives its distro an unfair advantage.

Ben Dupont
NWC Contributing Editor

The vendors claim they are setting aside their differences to improve interoperability between their individual products in the areas of virtualization, Web services for administering physical and virtual servers, directory and identity interoperability, and document format compatibility. With respect to the latter, Microsoft and Novell already announced a collaborative effort that produced what the vendors describe in a written statement as "seamless interoperability" between the two companies' respective office productivity applications.

As part of that deal, Novell and Microsoft also entered into an agreement that, among other things, prevents the two companies from suing each other's customers for patent infringements.

Reactions within the Linux community to the deal have varied, from a cautious watchfulness to concerns that the deal intentionally pits one Linux distributor--Novell--against the rest of the Linux community.

This week, Microsoft and Novell detailed that they are collaborating to create a joint virtualization solution for Linux and Windows environments that will make it easier for businesses to consolidate server workloads in the mixed data-center environment. Novell and Microsoft say the joint effort will result in a number of capabilities including Host SUSE Linux Enterprise Server running as a virtualized guest on an upcoming Microsoft Virtual Server service pack. Host SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 will also run as an enlightened guest on a future version of Microsoft Windows Server, also known as Longhorn. These enhancements will be introduced over the course of this year.

Both companies are also working on a specification to support a vendor-neutral set of Web Services protocols backed by the Desktop Management Task Force (DMTF) to simplify the administration of heterogeneous virtualized environments. Novell says it is collaborating with open-source developers to create an open-source version of the Web services standard, which is known WS-Management, with plans to have both Novell ZENworks Orchestrator and Microsoft System Center support the standard by year's end.

In the area of directory and identity interoperability, Microsoft and Novell are aiming to improve communications between the two vendors' products. The companies will issue a more specific road map sometime within the first half of this year.

In a related announcement, Novell says in working with Intel the vendors have found a way to let Microsoft Windows Server 2000/2003/XP run without any changes in a XEN paravirtualized environment on Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10. This will make it possible for companies to consolidate legacy Windows or Linux solutions onto fewer servers.

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