Microsoft Continues to Back SUSE Linux, with Enterprise Servers in Mind

by Ostatic Staff - Jul. 26, 2011

As an independent company, Novell relied for years on Microsoft-driven deals to drive its Linux-focused strategy forward. Now that Novell has been acquired by Attachmate, questions lingered about what relationship Microsoft might maintain with key Novell product lines. This week, with regard to SUSE Linux, an answer came down. Microsoft has announced that it will buy $100 million worth of SUSE Linux certificates through 2015, a move that will no doubt boost SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and create Linux-based competition at the server level, designed to compete directly with Red Hat.

Novell's struggling Linux business was a key part of how it ended up being acquired by Attachmate, and as Attachmate pursued the acquisition, Microsoft joined a group called CPTN Holdings that picked up a number of Novell's patents.  Microsoft has also been involved in numerous other SUSE Linux-focused reseller agreements with Novell over the years.

Why would Microsoft, which has desktop and server dominance with Windows, want to continue involvement with SUSE Linux. The answer lies squarely at the server level. As we noted here, Microsoft is not only one of the top contributors to the Linux kernel, but virtualization at the server level is now easy and efficient enough that IT adminstrators want to run Linux and Windows together in heterogenous environments. They don't want just one operating system. Specifically, many of them want to run Linux alongside Windows Server, and that means that the Linux kernel and Windows Server need to be able to play together nicely.

At the same time, by contributing to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Microsoft can help dilute Red Hat's increasing share of the Linux server market. The word "contributing" is worth considering carefully, though. In the past, Microsoft has sold SUSE certificates that it has purchased, as The Register notes:

"Although it was not obvious at the time, Microsoft didn't just give away SUSE Linux licenses for free, but rather charged customers for the SLES support licenses."

In short, Microsoft's support for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is a shrewd bet that has everything to do with selling more Windows Server licenses, pleasing IT administrators focused on both Windows and Linux, and competing effectively with Red Hat. Look for these SUSE-focused agreements to continue in the future.