Novell, IBM Take New Tack on Blade-Server OS Pricing

IBM BladeCenter users will get a new chassis-based subscription option that could save them money on their operating system costs, as long as they're running Novell Inc.'s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on all the blades in a chassis.

The two vendors last week jointly announced that a single SUSE Linux subscription priced at $2,792 will cover the maximum of 14 blade servers that can be configured in a single BladeCenter unit, regardless of the types and quantities of CPUs being used.

"I would love it if more vendors came out with that style of pricing," said Randy Folmes, director of information services at Woodbine Entertainment Group in Toronto. "It's a big job managing licensing at a time when we have 30-odd servers running different operating systems [and] different applications."

Woodbine, which operates two horse-racing tracks in Ontario plus related businesses, has eight blades in its BladeCenter, running a mix of SUSE Linux 8, NetWare 5.1 and Windows 2000 Server. Folmes expects to fill the remaining six slots by the end of next year and is budgeting for a new BladeCenter in 2007. He said he'll consider chassis-based subscription pricing for that unit, as Woodbine continues to move away from NetWare.

Added Flexibility

The chassis-based pricing gives BladeCenter users flexibility so they "can buy blades and stick them into the rack as they need them," said Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC.

The $2,792 price for the chassis-based SUSE Linux subscription is exactly eight times the $349 cost of a subscription for a single server with up to two CPUs. That makes eight blades the break-even point for customers opting for the new approach.

Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide Linux at IBM, noted that blades are often used for server consolidation and virtualization. He said that the single subscription fee will apply even if the 14 blades in a chassis are running dozens of SUSE Linux images.

"Once they license the chassis, they can deploy any number of instances of the operating system," said Ed Anderson, vice president of global product marketing at Novell. He added that although Novell is adopting chassis-based pricing with IBM first, it has the right to strike similar deals with other blade vendors.

Hewlett-Packard Co. doesn't offer per-chassis pricing on its blade units. But it does offer bundled licensing under one management registration key that covers 25 software components, including the operating system as well as provisioning and management tools, according to an HP spokeswoman.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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