Novell may be sold soon, but to whom?

The New York Post is not exactly where I look for business or Linux news, but it seems they're on to something. In a Sept. 15 story, the Post reported that "Novell Inc. has reached a deal in principle to sell itself in two parts and is three to four weeks away from signing a deal." My sources are saying the same thing.

The deal seems to be that a technology company will pick up SUSE Linux; its open-source community and its distribution, openSUSE; and their associated technologies like Mono, the open-source adaptation of Microsoft's .NET. The rest will go to a private-equity company.

Officially, Novell has told me, "No comment." Off the record, all I have is that there are deals in the works, but that's not much. Novell has been working on finding a buyer since at least May.

Whatever the merger and acquisition agreements end up being, I'm sure it will be for more than the $2 billion bargain-basement price offered by Elliott Associates in March of this year for Novell. That said, it's still possible that Elliott Associates may be the private equity firm in on the deal.

As for the company that might pick up Novell's Linux and other open-source businesses? I don't have any firm information. I've suggested that VMware might make an ideal buyer for Novell's Linux side, but I have nothing concrete. If a private equity firm took Novell's almost billion dollars in cash and the rest of the business, Novell's Linux and open-source divisions could probably be picked up for a comparative bargain.

Given HP's recent buying spree -- security information and event management firm ArcSight on Sept. 13 and storage vendor 3Par earlier in September -- it's possible that the company might also want to pick up a Linux distribution.

After all, while HP has an off-and-on relationship with the Linux desktop, it's always been a big supporter of Linux on servers. Also keep in mind that, by buying Palm with WebOS earlier this summer, HP has gotten into the Linux on devices market. Last, but not least, HP, while not well known as an operating system vendor, has long shipped its own operating systems such as OpenVMS and its own house brand of Unix, HP-UX. Why not a Linux of its own, too?

I don't see either Dell or Oracle being in the mix. Dell's strongest Linux partnerships are with Ubuntu and Red Hat. Oracle already has its own Unbreakable Linux, which is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

So, what do you think? VMware? HP? Dell? Oracle? None of the above?

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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