Microsoft and Novell Joint Announcement.
Update to this post: Wow, please forgive the horrible language of this post. I wrote it while watching the webcast live, and apparently my journalistic skills are not up to the task of simultaneous watching, listening and writing blog entries while building SLES virtual machines on another face of the cube on my desktop.
I got an email that essentially said Come to a Novell CEO Update Webcast today at 5 PM EST. I was confused slightly by this since it is now Daylight Savings Time, which made my brain break trying to figure out when to connect.
I went to the URL http://www.novell.com/webcast at 15:00 MDT, and there was no stream available yet. I waited a few minutes, reloaded and found a flash stream, which I connected to.
The stream showed the Microsoft Press Announcement. WTF?
I waited with bated breath…
At 15:22, a bunch of pointy-hairs from Novell and Microsoft came on and started off talking about a Microsoft / Novell joint announcement. Steve Ballmer was there as well as John Dragoon, Jeff Jaffe, Ron Hovesapien and several big-giant customers. The announcement is a big mystery so far.
The first speaker was Steve Ballmer. He started with thanks to a bunch of different people, including customers. He announced a set of agreements that he said would enhance interoperability between Windows and Linux. As CEO of Microsoft I recognize that Linux does and will continue to play an important role in IT infrastructure.
Microsoft and Novell are joining together on a series of solutions including virtualization, management and document compatibility.
Second, the new collaboration creats an intellectual property bridge between the open source and proprietary model. Microsoft and Novell have found a solution they say will respect both models.
Thirdly they are announcing a business agreement to promote and sell their products together as an interoperable stack. They focussed on Virtualization and Management.
Steve said that Microsoft wants customers who are choosing to use Linux and Windows to choose Novell’s SuSE Linux. He said if you asked him the right answer would still be Windows Windows Windows from his perspective, and something different from Jeff Jaffe’s perspective.
I have to say at this point it’s freaking me out to see Steve Ballmer speaking in front of a Novell backdrop. I can hear the ranting of the Linux zealots already. “Novell’s sold out!”
The first Novell speaker was Ron Hovesapien. He said that he initiated the discussion with Microsoft to discuss customers and the needs of the customers. He said he was impressed with the committment of Microsoft to the initiative. He said Microsoft will redistribute about 70,000 SLES licenses in order to help customers see they have a choice. They have also dedicated a team of Microsoft marketing people to help push the initiative. Microsoft has also partnered with Microsoft to collaborate on software patents in order to facilitate interoperability solutions.
Next was Jeff Jaffe who was there to present some of the technical aspects of the agreement. Novell’s opinion is that the agreement will strengthen the open source community in three ways. First Microsoft is going to work on interoperability between Linux and Windows. Next, Microsoft is announcing a covenant “not-to-sue” on patent infringement for open source developers. Third, Novell and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain open source projects in management and document compatibility.
There are three areas of technology collaboration. First is virtualization. SLES on Windows and Windows on SLES are going to be worked on in the collaboration using paravirtualization. Second is web services management. They are going to collaborate on web services management technologies and in eDirectory / Active Directory. Third is document compatibility. They are going to be jointly developing translators between ODF and Microsoft Offce formats.
Next was Brad Smith, an IP lawyer from Microsoft. He talked about patent issues with Microsoft and Novell. The issues were about building a bridge between the two models. Both Novell and Microsoft have large and important patent portfolios. They worked out a bunch of arrangements that remove barriers from the two companies collaborating without compromising their portfolios, so that they could jointly develop open source projects that help interoperability.
One of the agreements is that customers who purchase support from Novell for SUSE Linux will also get a patent covenant from Microsoft. There will be a financial exchange between the companies as part of this agreement, but they didn’t explain how it would work.
He also mentioned that they need to address the needs of developers. The first is a promise that they won’t assert patents against individual developers in a non-commercial role. The second thing is that they promise that they won’t assert patents against developers for OpenSUSE.org. That allows open source developers to work in areas that may have Microsoft patents and get that code into Linux without worrying about infringing on patents.
John Dragoon came back and introduced some partners to discuss their perspective. The first partner up was Shane Robinson from HP. He spoke about how excited HP was about virtualization and interoperability between Novell and Microsoft for future datacenters.
The last remarks were from Randy Cowan from Goldman-Sachs. He said he was grateful to industry leaders working together on interoperability solutions. He is pleased that the burden of ensuring interoperability for their stratigic platforms was being moved from their shoulders to Microsoft and Novell’s.
At the end John Dragoon entertained questions.
The first question was to Steve Ballmer. Someone asked if they are considering making a similar deal with Redhat. Steve said that the deep work involved was with the patent portfolio. They were pressured by their customers to deal with Linux vendors to resolve the patent issues and provide interoperability. They started directly communicating about it in April. It sounds like Redhat hasn’t been in the picture at all.
The next question was when did this agreement start and who initiated it. Ron Hovesapien said he initiated teh discussions with the CIO at Microsoft, around April.
The next question was about how it has been going from competitors to collaborators. Steve said first things first, we’re still competitors. Microsoft recognizes Novell as a sort-of proxy for the customer, and as a way to work with the open source community that is respectful of that community. Ron H said that the agreement should accellerate the uptake of both Novell and Microsoft products.
Next question was regarding if the agreement would resolve the Microsoft / Novell Word Perfect lawsuit. The answer was no.
Next was what’s a short summary of this agreement. Steve said that they have agreed to work together on the technical levels of interoperability, and that they have agreed on a way to ensure both sides’ intellectual property is protected. Microsoft doesn’t license their IP to Linux users, but they have agreed to this agreement to provide patent peace-of-mind to customers.
There were more customer touchy feely questions as well that I haven’t written about.
Update: Novell has put up a large FAQ regarding this deal.