Novell inks SuSE deal with IBM, HP

Novell Inc. recently annouced it has penned deals with IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. to distribute its SuSE Linux on servers and desktop computers.

Now Big Blue will pre-load and support SuSE Linux on its IBM eServer iSeries, pSeries, xSeries and zSeries families, plus its eServer BladeCenter systems. Previously, IBM sold a shrink-wrapped version of SuSE Linux, which was not already deployed on a system. IBM also already offers its systems with Red Hat Inc.’s Linux.

“SuSE has clearly emerged as a worldwide, enterprise Linux distributor,” said Gordon Haff, senior analyst and IT advisor at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H. “In IBM’s case specifically, to the degree that it sort of has had a primary Linux partner, it has historically been SuSE as opposed to Red Hat. Particularly on the power processor and on the mainframe, SuSE was really the strategic partner. There was a lot of Red Hat on the xSeries and the x86 processors and that was just more of a reflection of Red Hat’s overall marketshare.”

HP has also solidified a relationship with SuSE, vowing to turn it into its standard Linux distribution in North America and extending this strategy to Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific at a later date. The company will install and support SuSE Linux on some of its HP Compaq systems, both desktop and notebook. HP already offers SuSE on its servers.

The most exciting part of this announcement, said Martin Fink, vice-president of Linux at HP, is that HP will now offer “one solid consistent distribution platform from the desktop to the server.”

“One platform, one set of training, one back to pat — that is really cool. That’s the part I like,” he said.

HP has already partnered with Mandrake Linux in the U.S. and Turbolinux Inc. in Asia, to provide Linux on its some of its business desktops. Additionally, the company already offers Red Hat Linux on its workstations.

“Really none of these system suppliers are tying themselves down to a single distributor,” Haff said. As different Linux distributions are popular in different geographic locations, partnering with several distributors provides HP with a widespread geographic presence, he added.

Although SuSE has been inking lots of deals this week, Haff doesn’t see it as any indication that Red Hat is in trouble — he said there is definitely room in the market for both players. This week, Red Hat posted earnings for 2003 at US$37 million, up 43 per cent from 2002.

“In broad terms I don’t think what you’re seeing either SuSE or Red Hat [Inc.] being the sole go-to partner for any of the big system vendors but really you see things solidify around both Novell/SuSE and Red Hat, both being a strategic enterprise Linux distribution suppliers,” Haff said.

— With files from Patricia Pickett

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