Dell may have thrown open-source fans a bone when it started selling Ubuntu Linux PCs last week, but it already appears to have diluted that geek cred by signing up to the controversial relationship between Microsoft and Novell.
Dell said it will purchase SUSE Linux Enterprise Server certificates from Microsoft and will establish a services and marketing program to help existing Linux customers who are not Dell Linux customers to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
These certificates are some of about 70,000 Microsoft agreed to buy each year for five years under last November’s deal with Novell. Each certificate entitles a customer to SLES support from Novell. Dell would not say how many it has committed to buy over what period of time.
Reselling Linux server support is not controversial. The intellectual property covenants in the Novell-Microsoft deal, which imply that Microsoft owns IP used in Linux, are. Critics say the deal is being used by Microsoft to spread fear of litigation among non-SUSE Linux users.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has explicitly stated that Linux infringes upon… Microsoft intellectual property, while his counterpart at Novell, Ron Hovsepian, has said the deal is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property.
Dell spokesperson David Lord would not be drawn into this disagreement. It’s really a debate between those two companies he said. While Dell is explicitly offering customers Microsoft’s intellectual property assurance as a benefit of buying SUSE, Lord characterized this as peace of mind.
The other part of the deal involves interoperability. Microsoft and Novell are keen to help companies deploy Windows and Linux side-by-side in virtualized environments. Dell expects to pass this to its own customers too.
Dell expects to offer interoperability workshops, migration proof of concepts and migration services as part of its new relationship with the other two companies.
When asked whether the new deal is primarily about IP or primarily about interoperability, Lord said: I don’t think one outweighs the other. As customers deploy heterogeneous environments, they want both.
Shortly after yesterday’s announcement from Dell, a posting appeared on its IdeaStorm suggestion box web site, entitled Don’t imply Microsoft IP in Linux.
I would like Dell to make an official statement that they do not believe there is any Microsoft intellectual property in any of the distributions of Linux they offer, the poster, mhall119, wrote.
It was receiving about 100 votes per hour during the day yesterday. Dell’s Lord said he had not read the suggestion and declined to comment on it.
A flood of opinion and voting on IdeaStorm was the root of Dell’s decision last week to start offering PCs with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled instead of Windows. It was regarded as something of a victory for Linux advocates, but Dell may now have diluted some of that goodwill.
Dell’s spokesperson said that the new deal with Novell and Microsoft will have no impact on Dell’s continuing to offer servers running Red Hat’s flavor of Linux.
It seems unlikely that many of Dell’s server competitors will be interested in making similar deals with Microsoft. As Dell’s director of marketing Judy Chavis said in a video blog, only Dell among the major vendors does not have a Unix business to protect.