The channel weighs in on MS-Novell update

According to a study published by Microsoft and Novell, more than 90 per cent of their customers favour their recent agreement, but the degree of heterogeneity in enterprise IT environments may make the point moot.

The survey, which was carried out by Seattle-based Penn, Schoen & Berland, is the result of online responses recorded from 201 IT decision makers who work in companies with more than 500 PCs or servers. According to the results, 95 per cent approve of the collaboration; 87 per cent said that customers benefit if Linux distributors and Microsoft work together; and 97 per said they want more interoperability between platforms.

The survey was commissioned shortly after Microsoft and Novell jointed announced their agreement to co-operate on interoperability issues. The margin of error in the study is plus or minus 5.8 per cent.

“The idea of virtualization, of Linux and Microsoft together, that’s a reality,” said Dennis Bernhard, chief executive of Tenth Power Technologies Inc., a Novell reseller based in Toronto.

“But the problem really becomes an issue when you get to certain types of applications,” he said. “Can you create something like a ‘Lin-soft’ environment where I can run business visions and I don’t have to worry? I don’t think people really think about that much.”

Both Microsoft and Novell took the survey’s results as a good omen, calling it a customer endorsement of their agreement.

“We have said from the very beginning that we did this deal because our customers told us to. They said, ‘You’ve got to make Linux and Windows to work together,’” said Justin Steinman, director of marketing for Linux and open platforms at Novell.

“There may have been a time at Microsoft where we would have said, ‘Hey we’re Windows all the way,’” added David Kaefer, general manager of licensing at Microsoft. “But we’re in a period in the industry where there’s a reality where there’s both Windows and Linux in the enterprise.”

The deal has come under scrutiny, not just from open source enthusiasts, but from the main participants themselves. Shortly after the agreement was announced, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was quoted as saying that Linux products present a potential infringement on Microsoft intellectual property. Novell responded by posting an open letter on its Web site, signed by its CEO Ron Hovsepian.

“We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents,” the letter reads. “Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property. When we entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux or any other Novell offering violates Microsoft patents.”

That letter was published on Nov. 20, the day that the Microsoft and Novell surveyed closed. But Kaefer or Steinman believe that the perceived sleight from the Ballmer camp is not having an impact on either companies’ customers.

“We agree to disagree on matters regarding intellectual property and Linux,” said Steinman. “This is really about putting our own personal agendas aside. . . . The words of the few may be loud but the actions of the many are definitely louder. The vast majority of people are voting with their fingers and are downloading and installing our (Linux) distribution.”

David Reid, president of Epic Information Solutions, a Novell and Microsoft reseller based in Winnipeg, said he hasn’t heard much from his customers, good or bad, on the original agreement or the public disagreement that followed it. But there will always be Linux followers who recoil at the idea of an open source vendor working with Microsoft. “It’s like saying, Would an Apple user every want to use a PC?” he said. But, he added, customers are generally gratefully for anything that makes it easier to manage their mixed environments.

“Having some cross-over areas between Linux and Microsoft and commercialized software is a good thing to have. The only question is, how far does it go?”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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