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Microsoft and SUSE Linux Renew Their Vows

One year ahead of the end of the contract, Microsoft renews a deal for another five years and big bucks.

It's been four years since Microsoft and Novell inked their controversial interoperability agreement and it still had a year left to run, but it clearly worked out so well for Microsoft that it decided to re-up the deal for another four years and $100 million.

With this much time left to renew, the fact that Microsoft would renew it this early means it clearly got something out of the deal, enough so that it sees a return on investment greater than $25 million per year.

Microsoft, for its part, has benefitted handsomely from the deal. The collaboration has served more than 725 customers worldwide through a range of industries. It has provided support for both platforms to end customers and customer and reseller support to OEMs like Dell, which sell both Microsoft and SuSE solutions.

Novell, unfortunately, hasn't done so well. The Attachmate Group purchased the company in 2010 for $2.2 billion, effectively putting an end to a storied tech firm that had managed to last a lot longer than it should have. When NetWare became passé and Unix and UnixWare failed to pan out, the company was left scrambling for a new direction. Purchasing SuSE Linux and the 2006 deal with Microsoft bought it some time before the inevitable buyout.

At the time of the deal, Microsoft made a number of promises, and has pretty much kept all of them. A joint research facility opened in Cambridge, Mass. by the two firms in September, 2007, has worked on supporting both companies respective virtualization technologies, Web services for server management, and interoperability between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org.

These agreements came about after customer demand for cross-platform support, according to Mike Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. Prior to the agreements, if you were running SuSE on Microsoft's hypervisor, if you had an error, Microsoft would tell you to reproduce the problem on physical hardware, which was extremely difficult, and Novell said the same thing.

Customers had enough and said those two needed to work things out. Now, if customers report a problem, it can be escalated up the bug reporting food chain to be dealt with quickly.

It hasn't all been Microsoft singing kumbaya with the Linux vendors. In early 2007, Microsoft licensing executives publicly claimed that Linux and other free software violated 235 Microsoft patents and demanded patent licensing agreements, which it got from a few vendors. Barnes & Noble refused to play along and Microsoft is suing it over its Nook e-reader, which uses Linux. Patents, it seems, are the common denominator. Not only is Microsoft engaging in its patent fight with Linux firms, it purchased more than 800 patents from Novell when it was sold off to Attachmate, and the original agreement with Novell also involved a patent protection clause.

Still, Microsoft is at least trying for some public detente. It recently published a light-hearted video wishing Linux a happy 20th birthday.

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