Novell+Microsoft pact facts (and gun+foot=tears)

Help! It's IT Blogwatch, in which everybody reacts violently to last week's Novell/Microsoft announcement. Not to mention the list that brings tears to your humble blogwatcher's eyes...

Eric Lai eyeballs the news:

A long-time foe of open source, Microsoft announced yesterday that it would work with No. 2 Linux distributor Novell Inc. to make Windows interoperate with Suse Linux in the data center in areas such as virtualization and Web services. Microsoft will also help market Suse to its customers. While both Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian said the two companies will continue to compete, they will aid each other with support to the increasing number of companies running mixed Windows-Linux environments.

The tie-up is widely perceived as the second blow to Red Hat in two weeks. Oracle said last week that it would clone Red Hat's market-leading version of Linux in order to offer discounted support to enterprise customers.


Red Hat Inc. today called the new alliance between rivals Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. "unthinkable" -- but still spun it as a victory for all Linux vendors. "The best technology has been acknowledged," the company said in a statement posted on Red Hat's Web site overnight. "It means Linux has won."

Eric Ogren likes it:

This looks like a good deal for customers and for both companies. The vision on technology development is a datacenter comprised of SUSE Linux and Windows-based servers. Virtualization is the key ingredient here ... Customers get more choices in how they run their business infrastructure with assurances that they will be supported over the next several years, Microsoft gets a long-term migration path from a mixed datacenter environment to Windows-oriented operations, and Novell gets a big boost for selling SUSE Linux-based corporate application servers to large enterprises.

Novell's Ted Haeger offers an apologia:

Microsoft agrees to collaborate with Novell to make their software interoperate with Linux ... insert that classic record-needle-yanked-across-the-LP-grooves sound.

Beg your pardon? Novell and Microsoft sharing the love? Despite the eerie feeling that something has gone horribly wrong with the space-time continuum, this makes a lot of sense if you know Ron Hovsepian at all ... It’s about serving our customers.

He started it back in April. He called a former customer of his, now working in a senior role at Microsoft, and asked him to help him get the two companies to set aside all the old rivalries (20 years!) and do what is right for our mutual customers.

Frank Scavo continues to be amazed at co-opetition:

The latest example is Microsoft and Novell, which have announced a deal to promote interoperation of Microsoft Windows and Linux and -- the strange part -- promote each other's products.


Microsoft recognizes that Linux is threatening to make the bottom layer of the software stack a commodity, just as Intel has made the hardware layer a commodity ... Microsoft is positioning itself to derive even more value from its Office products and other applications, especially in overseas markets where Linux adoption is taking place even faster than in the U.S. ... Microsoft already averages over half of the workload processing in data centers. Microsoft really doesn't need to increase that share, but it does need to maintain it.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols digs in:

The real meat is that the two companies are working together on getting Novell's eDirectory and Microsoft's AD (Active Directory) in sync, and on making it possible to run either company's server OS as a virtual instance on the others. That's the kind of practical improvements that will make any serious CIO sit up and take notice.


Well, now Novell and Microsoft have a non-aggression treaty. Yes, the Novell/Microsoft deal also frees individual, non-profit open-source developers, and programmers who work on openSUSE, from any Microsoft patent danger. But what about programmers who work on, say, Red Hat Linux? ... I fear [for them] because Microsoft's proxy war on Linux via SCO is finally coming to its endgame. And no one, probably not even in SCO's own offices, believes that SCO will win ... After covering Microsoft for almost two-decades, I trust Microsoft the least when it looks like they're co-operating with others the most.

Bruce Perens scoffs:

You can be sure that Microsoft's not out to help a competitor ... this sets Mirosoft up to assert its patents against all commercial Open Source users ... Novell will help Microsoft turn back the Open Document Format and substitute something Microsoft controls.


One of the questions yet to be settled is whether Novell will violate the GPL ... by offering patent protection that is exclusive to Novell customers. The press release pretty much stated [as much] ... It appears that [Novell is] now out to make patent protection a business differentiator.


The timing of this agreement is significant. Microsoft and Novell are said to have ... sped up [this] announcement to take attention away from Oracle's recent announcement and to further depress Red Hat in the stock market ... [and] Microsoft ... essentially [asked] Baystar to be a front through which Microsoft funded SCO's attempt to charge a royalty to users of Linux.


Intellectual property protection ... actually impedes innovation. And the Novell-Microsoft agremeent stands as an additional impediment.

Pamela Jones groks the legal angle:

Excuse me while I go throw up. I gather Microsoft no longer thinks Linux is a cancer or communism. Now it just wants a patent royalty from it ... As for Novell, if history means anything, it will end up Microsoft roadkill ... I hate to break it to Ballmer, but SUSE Linux is GPL code, which the two parties may find puts a little pebble in the shoe of this alliance ... Funny how the corporate guys' lawyers never do grok the GPL until they are in doodoo up to their armpits, like SCO.


Microsoft does intend to kill ODF, I gather, and Novell is apparently going to help them try ... instead of helping ODF, they are helping Microsoft in the name of interoperability. How do you get so turned around that you lose your way like this? ... It's time for the community to give its full support to Red Hat and the Fedora Project. I have met Matthew Szulik. I liked him and I trust him. He does comprehend the GPL and community values. And I'll be doing what I can. They need folks to do documentation on Fedora, I noticed, and I can and will do that.


Man, this is just like when SCO was making the same type of bully offer in 2003, only with copyrights. Microsoft must think that project failed because SCO bungled the job. I guess it goes to show that when you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. That's not what happened, although they bungled it. What happened is this: when you attack Linux, people despise you and don't want to do business with you any more.

Stephen O'Grady has mixed feelings:

There are two ways of looking at the news around document format interoperability: this is excellent news because customers will now have the ability to read another format which may be propagated, or that it's damaging news because it undermines the ODF-only story (although it should be noted that [] currently does read MS Office documents, if imperfectly) being told by advocates of the format ... ODF is far from doomed, but this news is not likely to be welcomed. It is unlikely to come as a surprise, however, given that it's no secret that the Novell folks have been attending the ECMA meetings and interacting heavily w/ the MSXML gang. The decision, in fact, was probably inevitable.


[But] what Microsoft has promised here is in my view significant and (potentially) beneficial to certain communities of open source developers, specifically the Mono community, individual non-commercial developers and so on. Is this is as far as I'd like to see them go? Of course not. Is is beneficial for open source as a whole? Debatable. But contrast this behavior with their actions of a few years ago, and it's another step in the right direction. The journey of a thousand miles and all that.

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... Shooting yourself in the foot in various programming languages [your humble blogwatcher remembers reading an old version of this list at least 15 years ago, yet it still brings tears to his eyes]

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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