Retail bank HSBC Plc has become the latest customer to sign up to Microsoft Corp and Novell Inc’s interoperability deal, accepting Microsoft offer of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server support certificates.
Microsoft announced in November 2006 that it would distribute 70,000 Linux support certificates a year for five years, at the cost of $240m as part of an interoperability and patent deal with Novell.
London, UK-based HSBC is the fifth Microsoft/Novell customer to go public, after Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, AIG Technologies, and most recently Wal-Mart signed up to take the SUSE Linux Enterprise support agreements.
Novell’s CEO, Ron Hovsepian, recently admitted that a lot of the deals were already in Novell’s pipeline, and that was the case with HSBC’s decision to standardize on Novell. According to Matthew O’Neill, group head of distributed systems for HSBC global IT operations.
We’ve been looking at and using some Linux for a number of years, looking at a number of key distributions, he said, adding that Linux is used to run third-party and in-house developed business critical applications.
A couple of years ago we commenced the global deployment of Active Directory and in doing that project we managed to demise a range of infrastructure servers, he added, noting that the end result was that it cost less to manage Windows servers than it did to manage Linux servers.
One of the reasons for that is that the company had taken an ad hoc approach to Linux deployment. In the early stages of deployment we did tend to set the build to the specific application, rather than look at it as a commoditized server, O’Neill said.
While the decision had already been taken to standardize on Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, the company’s interoperability agreement with Microsoft, combined with conversations HSBC was having with the software giant about virtualization, made the support subscriptions a natural fit, said O’Neill.
There was certainly a timing advantage, and given where we are with our investments with Microsoft it made sense, he said. Having conversations with Novell and Microsoft at the table felt very comfortable.
While O’Neill would not reveal how many of the three-year priority support subscriptions HSBC has taken on, he did say that it covers every Linux server I have, adding that HSBC would migrate to SLES as part of its normal infrastructure refresh cycle, known as Evergreen, which sees systems refreshed every three years.
O’Neill also declined to comment on how much HSBC was paying for the subscriptions, other than to deny that it was getting them free of charge. We are paying, and we are pleased with the price, he said. The thing that’s the most important for me is that it’s created a compelling event to try and standardize.
Alongside Microsoft and Novell’s work on virtualization interoperability, web services management and document formats, the two companies also announced a patent covenant not to sue each other’s customers.
That side of the deal has proven controversial, especially in the light of Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer’s assertion that it indicates Linux has intellectual property problems. Novell and Microsoft have maintained that customers asked them to remove any potential concern about legal matters, although O’Neill suggested that HSBC was not overly concerned about being sued by either party ahead of the agreement.
It’s a nice to have. I don’t think it was a main feature for me, but it’s nice to have, he said. It’s definitely something we consider, but it’s not something that keeps us awake at night.