Dell Joins Microsoft + Novell Linux Pact

Calling Linux and Windows the “two platforms of the future,” Novell this morning hailed the entry of Dell as the first systems vendor to join the Microsoft + Novell pact, as a reseller of Microsoft’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server certificates. The deal effectively makes Microsoft a real Linux distributor for the world’s #2 supplier of servers.


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As for Dell, already a Linux reseller for its server customers, the deal helps tilt its marketing bias somewhat more toward Novell and away from Red Hat, for which Dell is also a supplier. Dell committed this morning to a new marketing campaign that will target existing Linux customers who have not already purchased a Dell-branded distribution.

This morning, Dell said its marketing campaign would include support for modeling and effectuating customer migrations, as well as promoting interoperability – which presumably means, making Linux distributions fit better in environments where Windows is already installed.

When Microsoft and Novell entered into their still-controversial Linux covenant last November, Microsoft purchased 70,000 certificates for Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for resale to its own customers. By the end of the year, Microsoft claimed to have resold about 18,000 of those certificates; now, the company says it has resold 40,000.

HP – currently the world’s #1 server supplier – is already a reseller of Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, though it purchases its certificates from Novell, not Microsoft. And while HP and Microsoft entered into a three-year “enterprise agreement” last December, that agreement extends to HP customers options with regard to Windows, not Linux.

While many Linux proponents are not too keen about the idea of the OS’ biggest rival serving as its enterprise reseller, it isn’t the fact that Microsoft can resell Linux that is at the heart of the current controversy. Proponents have challenged whether Novell and Microsoft had the authority to enter into a covenant agreement presumably protecting Novell’s SUSE Linux customers from possible IP infringement suits from Microsoft, in exchange for a deal letting Microsoft resell SUSE Linux.

While Microsoft maintains that Linux contains key technologies that it originated and patented, Novell refuses to concede that the agreement constituted an acknowledgement that Microsoft has any legitimate claim over any part of Linux.

Authors of the General Public License under which Linux is distributed are currently busy rewriting it to effectively prohibit future licensees from entering into any type of covenant with another party, as though that party had any claim to Linux technologies whose suspension were of negotiable value.

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