Novell extends Linux commitment with SuSE deal

Novell’s US$210 million purchase Tuesday of SuSE marks a major boost for the world’s second-largest Linux distribution, according to Canadian open source users.


acquisition of SuSE came in conjunction with a US$50 million investment in Novell stock from IBM, which said it would be negotiating extensions to the current commercial agreements between Big Blue and SuSE for software support on eServer and middleware products.

SuSE is best known as a Linux distribution for servers. It is also one of the four partners involved with UnitedLinux, an effort to create a more standard version of the operating system.

The deal comes almost exactly three months after Novell’s acquisition of Ximian, a Linux desktop specialist, and is in keeping with Novell’s recent attempts to build support for open source in its product line. At its annual BrainShare user conference earlier this year, for example, Novell said it was working on a migration path that will make its services available on the Linux kernel, though that isn’t expected until NetWare 7.0.

Novell chief executive Jack Messman said the deal would make Novell the only US$1billion-dollar software company with a Linux distribution and the worldwide technical staff to support it.

“”Linux no longer needs to stay at the periphery,”” he said. “”It can come into the core of the business. It can now move to the data centre.””

Former president of the Canadian Linux User’s Exchange and current president of the Linux Professional Institute Evan Leibovitch was in Hong Kong at a local LinuxWorld Tuesday, but in an e-mail he said he looked positively at the SuSE acquisition.

“”Novell is obviously a major player. Its involvement in a major Linux company such as SuSE will certainly give Linux even greater credibility in the enterprise, not to mention some healthy competition for Red Hat,”” he wrote. “”Obviously, it also indicates more confidence that the SCO complaints are a non-issue.””

Novell, like IBM, has been entangled with SCO over claims the latter owns parts of the Linux kernel. SCO has said it has a contract which proves Novell sold its Unix copyrights to the company. SuSE, meanwhile, had a business partnership with SCO which its executives said will shield it from the legal activity with which SCO has threatened other companies.

“”On the other hand, Novell must ensure that SuSE’s excellent engineering reputation not be affected, and it needs to clarify the relationships between itself, the Canopy Group, and SCO,”” Leibovitch said in his e-mail.

Russell McOrmand, a longtime Linux advocate and Ottawa-based IT consultant with, said the SuSE deal may silence critics who have questioned Novell’s ability to expand beyond its roots, but its impact on Canada may be minimal.

“”My impression is that SuSE focuses more on the European market, partly because there is a larger European market,”” he said. “”We North Americans are very Microsoft-centric, but the rest of the world isn’t so much that way.””

Bernard Slama, a sales representative with software provider Camelot in Montreal, said his firm no longer sells Novell product but that the announcement could help promote its sales of SuSE server software.

“”The market has shrunk a lot,”” he said. “”I think SuSe was doing fine, is still doing fine . . . if this gets SuSE’s name into the media in any way, it’s always good exposure.””

SuSE chief executive Richard Seibt said Novell would considerably extend the company’s reach.

“”It was always SuSE’s goal that our technology become available everywhere in the world, running on almost all of the servers and all of the clients,”” he said. “”We believe our customers want a worldwide support organization, a worldwide sales operation they can call on. They want to have a business partner organization which can support them on a local basis.””

Messman said SuSE development staff would remain in Germany and would ensure that any decisions around product overlap would keep customers in mind.

“”That may involve keeping multiple products in the market,”” he said. “”Remember, it’s all about choice and we want to give customers what they want.””


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