November 08, 2006, 6:32 PM — Just weeks after the passing of one-time Novell CEO Ray Noorda -- a Microsoft hater if there ever was one, the two companies have publicly announced their love for each other. You've got to admit, the sight of Steve Ballmer shaking hands with recently appointed Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian was a bit strange.
So here we have Microsoft, the anti-open-source, sworn enemy of anything that's not Windows (UNIX, NetWare, and even its own OS/2) suddenly embracing Novell and Novell's SUSE Linux implementation. It's certainly an admission that Microsoft could no longer keep as it attempts to kill Linux. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
The two companies have agreed to find ways to make their products happily interoperate, a move that should ease the pain for many an IT shop easing Linux servers into an otherwise Windows Server environment.
In addition, Microsoft and Novell announced a broad series of patent-protection agreements that runs through 2012. After that, well, Microsoft will probably just be getting the replacement for Vista out the door. We'll just have to see. And let's hope this relationship has a better outcome than the Microsoft-IBM OS/2 marriage of the 1980s, or the Britney Spears / Kevin Federline marriage of more recent vintage.
The big loser, of course, is Red Hat. Already beaten up (and its stock price beaten down) by Sun Microsystems' plan to outmaneuver Red Hat in supporting Red Hat Linux, Microsoft's endorsement of SUSE Linux -- and for now only SUSE Linux -- is a double whammy and can't be sitting well with a lot of IT directors and integrators who rightfully made Red Hat the premier supplier of Linux and are entrusting mission-critical applications to it. We'll just have to see about that, too.
Among the interesting announcements is the formation of a united research laboratory where the two lovebirds plan to jointly develop new software and work with third-party software houses. They'll also develop comprehensive virtualization solutions, including the ability for Linux to run under Windows and vice versa. Another key area of cooperation will be Web services.
So what does it mean for solutions integrators? Plenty, though specific solutions constitute the road ahead.
First, I believe the pact will get Linux into lots of Windows-only shops. That translates to lots of potential expansion-of-business opportunities. The converse would seem to be less true, since Windows already is just about everywhere. For the shops that previously chose to go strictly open source, essentially an anti-Microsoft decision, Windows penetration is not likely to be widespread.