Novell, Microsoft Extend Linux Pact

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Over a year and a half ago, Microsoft and Novell entered into a wide-ranging pact to improve interoperability between SUSE Linux and Windows operating systems and technologies. The agreement made Novell’s SUSE Linux distribution—mainly intended for enterprise customers—the “preferred” version of Linux from Microsoft’s point of view, and involved patent cross-licensing and an agreement not to pursue each others’ customers for patent infringement claims. The agreement came at a time when Microsoft was rattling its patent sabers over technologies included in Linux: eventually, Microsoft informally claimed Linux violated over 200 Microsoft patents; the open source community cried foul, essentially daring Microsoft to take Linux to court over even one such infringment. To date, Microsoft hasn’t taken any legal action.

Microsoft’s and Novell’s deal was set to run through at least 2012; now the companies have announced an expansion to the agreement that includes a commitment from Microsoft to purchase up to $100 million in support certificates. Microsoft buys the support certificates from Novell, then sells subscriptions to its Windows clients who want help getting their systems working with SUSE Linux.

“The collaboration between Microsoft and Novell has been built on our desire to meet our customers’ real-life IT requirements as well as give our partners greater breadth in their solution offerings,” said Microsoft COO Kevin Turner, in a statement. “Some customers have told us they want to be able to run Windows Server and Linux together seamlessly, but in many cases, they need help with the transition to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server from other Linux environments. Our increased investment in the relationship with Novell is intended to give these customers and partners the best possible Windows-Linux interoperability solution, while also extending their existing Windows Server investments and helping to give them IP peace of mind.”

Novell says it has already invoiced Microsoft for more than $!157 million in support certificates since the agreement was initially announced. Clients taking advantage of the program include Wal-Mart, HSBC Holdings, Renault, Southwest Airlines, and BMW.

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