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Microsoft and SUSE Agree to Extend Linux Partnership

This latest deal is basically the same one that was established between Microsoft and Novell in November of 2006.

Microsoft is renewing its server interoperability and patent-protection agreement with SUSE Linux and investing $100 million in the program. Under the new terms, Microsoft and SUSE will continue their interop and IP licensing arrangement through Jan. 1, 2016.

When Microsoft and Novell first struck this deal almost five years ago, it was controversial among the open source Linux community. Many Linux vendors refused Microsoft's offer to indemnify at cost. The goal of enabling interoperability between the Windows and Linux operating systems in enterprise environments was eclipsed by Microsoft attorney claims that Linux violated 235 of Microsoft's patents.

The latest agreement is with SUSE, now a business unit of the Attachmate Group. Attachmate acquired Novell in April and split the company into SUSE and Novell business units. This latest deal is basically the same one that was established between Microsoft and Novell in November of 2006.

Under the renewed agreement, however, Microsoft will invest $100 million in "new SUSE Linux Enterprise certificates." These certificates are bought by customers electing to receive Linux support from SUSE, but they also provide interoperability support for mixed Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise environments, as well as legal protection from Microsoft.

Microsoft promises not sue SUSE's customers for patent violations, vaguely ascribed to using Linux, if customers buy these certificates. Microsoft's announcement cited "more than 725 customers worldwide" that have bought into this joint Microsoft and SUSE program.

The program offers "expanded support," which appears to be a way to migrate away from Red Hat Enterprise Linux, according to this page. There's also interoperability support and "complementary management tools" from Microsoft partner BridgeWays, according to a blog post by Sandy Gupta, general manager of the Open Solutions Group. Microsoft is working on facilitating "cross-platform virtualization" as organizations move to the Internet cloud, according to Gupta.

One of the notable holdouts from Microsoft's interoperability and patent indemnity program was Red Hat. However, Red Hat later joined Microsoft in establishing a hypervisor interoperability collaboration deal, minus the IP licensing aspect. According to an account by open source advocate Matt Assay, Microsoft first courted Red Hat for years before turning to Novell and inking that deal. Red Hat balked when Microsoft inserted its patent indemnity scheme along with the interoperability terms.

Microsoft's lawyers have been less sparing of Linux on the mobile device side, where they have been suing Microsoft's hardware partners over the use of Linux-based Android mobile operating system. Microsoft is not alone; Apple is doing the same. Oracle is suing Google directly, with mixed results, over the use of Java in Android.

Despite the legal animosities, Microsoft has an internal group and an outreach campaign wholly devoted to addressing interoperability issues associated with Linux.

A happier view of the long-time Microsoft vs. Linux struggle recently popped up in the form of a cartoon video. The video had been contributed to a Linux Foundation event celebrating Linux's 20th "birthday." It shows a Bill Gates look-alike offering a cake to a Linux penguin peeping from an igloo.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.

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