Microsoft Corp. recently announced that it will buy $25 million to $100 million in additional customer support certificates for Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise software that Microsoft will, in turn, sell to its customers that want a mix of open source and proprietary software. The pact is an extension of the five-year interoperability agreement of November 2006, in which Microsoft agreed to sell $240 million of SUSE certificates in five years. (SUSE itself can be downloaded for free but customers must pay for patches and support.)
Microsoft’s SUSE certificate sales, in fact, have grown faster than expected, exceeding $157 million in the first 18 months. Novell, in turn, agreed to boost its investment in tools and customer training to help make the two systems more interoperable and user-friendly at the joint Microsoft/Novell research facility in Cambridge, Mass.
Justin Steinman, Novell’s director of product marketing for Linux and Open Source, said SUSE Linux core sales have continued to grow rapidly and the Microsoft certificate sales represent just another channel to get into the market.
Al Gillen, research vice president of system software with Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp., said that the extension is “positive for both companies” and reassures users that the pact “isn’t going to run out of gas” before its scheduled termination.“The market for nonsupported Linux is strong, and Microsoft is trying to penetrate that market with these certificates,” Gillen added. “Microsoft doesn’t want to compete against free Linux software, and by selling SUSE support certificates, Microsoft creates a level playing field.”
Although open source is touted as a lower-cost alternative to proprietary software, Gillen said the cost difference is insignificant when comparing the tab for acquisition and support over a five-year period.