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Attachmate says openSUSE is safe

Novell acquisition won't immediately affect openSUSE

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Fans and contributors can breathe a sigh of relief for now: Attachmate has issued a statement saying there will be "no change" in the relationship between openSUSE and the SUSE business unit.

Yesterday the other shoe dropped and we finally found out who'd be taking Novell home for Christmas: Attachmate, a company that most folks — even in the IT press — aren't overly familiar with. VMware was presumed to be the leading candidate, but Attachmate (with some help from Microsoft) picked up the bulk of Novell with a purchase price of $2.2 billion. To put that in perspective — for those folks who thought Novell wasn't worth the purchase price — Novell has annual revenue of about $860 million dollars and nearly $1 billion in the bank at the end of the 2009 fiscal year. So $2.2 billion, not really a stretch. One might even say the company went a bit cheap.

But knowing the company is going to Attachmate still leaves quite a few questions in the air. One of the big ones? What happens to openSUSE as part of the deal?

My first guess was that openSUSE would suffer in the deal. Call me cynical, or pessimistic — after watching Oracle's abysmal handling of Sun's open source communities, I wasn't too optimistic about the chances for Novell's community investments when the company is landing in the hands of a company with no open source DNA whatsoever.

But the company issued a brief statement yesterday, saying:

"The openSUSE project is an important part of the SUSE business," commented Jeff Hawn, chairman and CEO of Attachmate Corporation. "As noted in the agreement announced today, Attachmate plans to operate SUSE as a stand-alone business unit after the transaction closes. If this transaction closes, then after closing, Attachmate Corporation anticipates no change to the relationship between the SUSE business and the openSUSE project as a result of this transaction."

Aside from being encouraging at face value, the fact that the company issued the statement within a few hours of the news breaking is a good thing: Communication is key with a contributor community. No doubt the company is being hammered with questions about its plans for Novell product strategy and so forth — but it took the time out to address openSUSE specifically.

The devil is in the details, of course. If SUSE can operate as a separate business and flourish, with the same level of investment in openSUSE (or more, preferably) then that's good news indeed.

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