Microsoft partners with Novell for virtualization

Quoting from the Microsoft official announcement:

Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. today announced a set of broad business and technical collaboration agreements to build, market and support a series of new solutions to make Novell and Microsoft products work better together. The two companies also announced an agreement to provide each other’s customers with patent coverage for their respective products. These agreements will be in place until at least 2012.

The agreement between Microsoft and Novell focuses on three technical areas that provide important value and choice to the market:

  • Virtualization
    Virtualization is one of the most important trends in the industry. Customers tell Microsoft that virtualization is one way they can consolidate and more easily manage rapidly growing server workloads and their large set of server applications. Microsoft and Novell will jointly develop a compelling virtualization offering for Linux and Windows
  • Web services for managing physical and virtual servers
    Web services and service-oriented architectures continue to be one of the defining ways software companies can deliver greater value to customers. Microsoft and Novell will undertake work to make it easier for customers to manage mixed Windows and SUSE Linux Enterprise environments and to make it easier for customers to federate Microsoft Active Directory with Novell eDirectory

Under the technical collaboration agreement, the companies will create a joint research facility and pursue new software solutions for virtualization, management and document format compatibility.

Under the business collaboration agreement, the companies will pursue a variety of joint marketing activities to promote the adoption of the technologies they are collaborating on. In addition, Microsoft will purchase a quantity of coupons from Novell that entitle the recipient to a one-year subscription for maintenance and updates to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. Microsoft will annually make available approximately 70,000 of these coupons to customers, with a mix of priority and standard support services. By providing its customers with these coupons, Microsoft is enabling companies to benefit from the use of the new software solutions developed through the collaborative research effort, as well as a version of Linux that is covered with respect to Microsoft?s intellectual property rights…

This announcement has obviously raised a lot of questions and has been read in many ways by Windows and Linux communities.
I can’t see anything extraordinary in it.

Microsoft simply need a Linux enterprise distribution to officially endorse in its upcoming Windows Server Virtualization (WSV) hypervisor (formerly codename Viridian).

The effort in supporting Linux inside virtual machine is significant, even for Microsoft, and such partnership with a Linux distributor permits to partially reduce support issues.

At today there are only two concrete possibilities for a partnership of this kind: Novell and Red Hat.

From my point of view it’s easy to imagine why Microsoft chosen Novell: while SUSE is a solid and innovative distribution, Red Hat has still the market dominance after years of presence.
Microsoft preferred to weak Red Hat leadership chosing its competitor.

At this point Red Hat has some problems offering a trustworthy Windows support over both XenSource, which already has a direct agreement with Microsoft since this summer, and Novell now.
Being involved in Xen development since early beginning, Red Hat surely has capabilities to offer such support, but the real problem is how reliable its support will be percieved by market.

Many companies find the great flexibility of Linux an issue, not a benefit: several need to know the chosen distribution will be supported in every deployment (including virtual datacenters) and most of all will be supported in interoperability scenarios.

Microsoft and Novell agreement may offer that assurance, simplifying management in mixed corporate enviroments where Windows and Linux have to coexist.

Update: PC Pro disclosed economical terms of the agreement: Microsoft will also commit to marketing ‘Linux and Windows virtualization scenarios’ to the tune of $12m and will spend a further $34m putting together a sales team to sell the combined Linux and Microsoft products.