I'm not the least bit surprised that the Wall Street Journal is reporting that VMware will be buying Novell's Linux business. After all, I suggested that VMware could really use Novell's SUSE Linux for its future, and I also knew that Novell was in hot and heavy merger and acquisition talks earlier this week. My own sources have also now confirmed that VMware is Novell's suitor.
I still don't know those critical questions of how much, when, or any of the rest. According to the WSJ, and this I have been unable to confirm, Novell's remaining assets, including NetWare, Novell's old network operating system may end up in the hands of "Attachmate, which is owned by private equity buyout firms, which include Golden Gate Capital and Francisco Partners. Attachmate is a 30-plus year terminal emulation and networking company that could probably do a good job of supporting the last of Novell's die-hard NetWare customers. In short, this part of the reported deal also makes sense.
Whether VMware will do a good job of taking care of SUSE Linux is another question. VMware CEO Paul Maritz is a former Microsoft powerhouse. Don't think though that just because at one time he might have been in line for Microsoft's CEO chair that he's a good friend of Microsoft these days. When Microsoft rently took out an ad in USA Today urging businesses not to buy long-term VMware licenses, whatever love was left was lost.
In turn, Maritz has had little good to say about Microsoft lately. I'd go so far to say that VMware/Novell will probably have less to do with Microsoft than Novell does on its own these days.
This is not to say that VMware/Novell won't still work with Microsoft. There are lots of Windows customers running VMware virtualization stacks and a good number of Windows shops that run Linux are doing it with SUSE Linux. VMware may not like Microsoft, but they're not going to cut off their nose to spite their face.
At the same time, though, VMware will be happy to use Novell's recently released Cloud Manager software to move users to virtualized SUSE Linux instances far, far away from Windows. VMware and Novell were already working closely together long before this deal started to materialize.
In addition, while VMware has not been friendly to open source, I think they know that for their company to get any real value from Novell it has to support Linux and free and open-source software. They may not be crazy about it, but they don't have to be. Companies have learned in the last few years that open-source makes good, hard dollars-and cents sense. It's for those practical, business reasons that VMware is going to support Linux and make SUSE Linux the operating system in its virtualization and cloud software stack.