Novell brains share thoughts on Microsoft

Microsoft and Novell interoperability agreement a success, declares Hovespian

The widely criticised Microsoft and Novell interoperability agreement has been a success for his company, Novell CEO, Ron Hovespian, said Monday.

Speaking to a group of international journalists at the Novell's annual Brainshare conference in Salt Lake City, Hovespian said the deal -- signed in November 2006 -- has worked because most enterprises have both Novell and Microsoft software deployed in their IT environment. And in order to keep the harmony between two software stacks like JSEE and .NET or between Linux and Windows, he said, Waltham, Mass.-based Novell will continue to foster a working relationship that focuses on interoperability and efficiency with Microsoft products.

"When we started this we knew a bridge was occurring between our products," Hovespian said in response to a question from ComputerWorld Canada. "A lot of projects that were in the pipeline have now started to take off, with one example being Moonlight. From a customer and technical perspective we see it working nicely."

Hovespian said that while it is difficult to determine exactly which company is actually driving the customer in most cases, Novell netted about "$122 million through the relationship" last year. "We wanted to develop a more efficient relationship," he said. "It is a delicate balance and we understood that going in, but it has definitely worked out from a financial standpoint. I feel very good about it."

But the affirmation of its deal with the Redmond giant has failed to come from others in the company.

Open-source advocate and Novell vice-president, Miguel de Icaza, publicly criticised his company's cross-patent licensing agreement with Microsoft at MIX 08 earlier this month. He said that Novell has done the best it could to balance open-source interests with patent indemnification, but had it been his call, he would have avoided the deal.

"I'm not happy about the fact that such an agreement was made, but [the decision] was above my pay grade; I think we should have stayed with the open-source community," de Icaza told a MIX 08 panel.

More potential troubles for the Novell may arise from the abrupt departure of Martin Buckley, long-time product manager and global evangelist for Novell's Systems and Resource Management portfolio, who left just a week before this year's Brainshare conference. It was reported that he left his employer of eight years due to "certain principles" and rumors are abound that he's headed to Microsoft.

And ironically, the fact that Monday's affirmation of support by Hovespian coincided with a significant U.S. Supreme Court ruling -- which refused Microsoft's request to dismiss Novell's 2004 antitrust case against the software giant -- adds another twist to this saga. But despite these rumblings, it seemed that many of the Novell brass in attendance echoed their CEO's sentiments and continue to view the technical partnership as a beneficial development for enterprise IT departments everywhere.

"When we started the work with Microsoft, we recognized that we would have some philosophical differences," Roger Levy, senior vice-president and general manager of Open Platform Solutions at Novell, said. "But we recognized that there are customers that use both and we had the foresight to address this. Windows and Linux will be in every datacentre and because we didn't see anybody stepping up to address this, we had to do it."

Levy said that 60 to 70 major customers have signed up jointly with Novell and Microsoft as a result of the agreement. But for the most decisive proof of the progress being made, Levy made reference the recent Windows Server 2008 launch and Microsoft's use of the Linux platform during the event.

"Who would have thought when Steve Ballmer demonstrated Server 2008 that they would be incorporating Linux and talking about it positively," Levy asked. "A few years ago he had some choice comments about the platform and now he's helping to demonstrate SUSE Linux."

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Rafael Ruffolo

ComputerWorld Canada
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