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Novell extends interoperability with Microsoft

Novell will create open source extensions to Microsoft, and mixed shops stand to benefit. But Red Hat may lose out, as Novell outpaces Red Hat's interoperability efforts.

At the recent Microsoft Management Summit, the world's largest proprietary software vendor further extended its interoperability partnership with Novell Inc. That's good news for data centers, most of which run a mix of Windows and Linux platforms.

For more on Novell and on interoperability:
Open Source Alliance founded to foster OSS interoperability

Ubuntu, Red Hat and Novell SUSE Linux jockey for position

Microsoft authorized Novell to create the extensions for a new open source management pack to its System Center. The new open source interface will be an enrichment of Novell's existing bridge to Windows, which is based on SUSE Enterprise Linux's Zenworks management system. The new interface will create critical mass with existing open source language, data modeling and other requirements common for all open source vendors.

Smoother OS management
According to Joe Wagner, Novell's SVP for the Systems and Resource Management Business Group, mixed shops should run much more smoothly with fewer problems and lower costs under a common open source infrastructure. Until now, data centers with mixed environments either had to create silos of duplicate resources to manage and monitor multiple operating systems and/or buy expensive tools to convert and translate data into a single view, he said.

This gives Novell ... greater penetration into Microsoft space … and will hurt Red Hat.
Chris Wolf,
analystBurton Group

"The first step is to create a common way to look at the health and monitoring of the infrastructure," Wagner said. "Then we can expand to get more proactive remediation. That's our intent."

With this move toward interoperability, Microsoft and Novell have agreed to adopt the OpenPegasus (open source) language, which is used at the lowest software levels, and both companies have pledged to contribute to its open source working committee, giving both a stake in boosting interoperability. In addition, Microsoft has agreed to open access for some data extensions, promoting cross-platform compatibility.

The target release date for both Microsoft and Novell interoperability components is the first half of 2009, he said.

The impact on Red Hat
Will Novell's role in creating the open source extensions give it a competitive advantage over the Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat?

"This is just another good thing for Novell," which has already increased its market share 9% due to the Microsoft relationship, said Chris Wolf, an analyst at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group. "This gives Novell an increased opportunity for licenses and greater penetration into Microsoft space … and will hurt Red Hat. The results speak for themselves."

In a broader sense, however, Microsoft's interoperability initiative is a win for every open source vendor because, for the first time, Microsoft is an active contributor to open source and the open source community, he said.

Tony Iams at Ideas International in Rye Brook, N.Y., said that both Red Hat and Novell stand to benefit from Microsoft's interoperability move, but Novell would receive the greater boost. Red Hat's engineering collaboration with Microsoft will not be as extensive as Novell's, therefore, Red Hat's systems will not be as optimized with Microsoft's, he said.

Joe Clabby, that principal at Yarmouth, Maine-based Clabby Analytics, said the Microsoft/Novell collaboration could hurt Red Hat if users perceive that the Novell-initiated extensions make Novell easier to manage with Microsoft tools. "You want to be aligned with a volume vendor," Clabby said. "It might be cheaper to do the integration yourself but it's a lot of labor and effort." Red Hat has the same opportunity to write extensions to Microsoft application program interfaces on its own initiative. The question is, Does it want to go under the Microsoft umbrella or go in its own direction? he asked.

Another Microsoft partner poised to benefit from the interoperability pact is Xandros, Inc.

Based on its expertise with Linux tools, Microsoft chose Xandros to create management packs to make open source applications like the Apache Web server and MySQL database and other Linux-based systems work with Microsoft. Xandros demonstrated a number of its BridgeWays Management Packs at Microsoft's recent Management Summit.

According to Xandros CEO Andreas Typaldos, Xandros' interoperable tools enable data centers to view and monitor servers running different operating systems on the same monitor. The tools also enable system administrators to take simple corrective action, such as shutting down a server that overheats or redirecting traffic from an overloaded machine when necessary, he said.

The Microsoft agreement should help Xandros by expanding its product line and customer base. And it should help data centers, which need only one viewer instead of two, he said.

The bottom line of Microsoft's interoperability efforts is more choice for data center managers and "choice is always good," Iams said. Microsoft also has injected urgency and a wave of innovation" into a space that had been dominated by Tivoli, [CA] and Hewlett-Packard Co. and that will put pressure on them to innovate as well."

Red Hat declined to comment for this story.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Writer . And check out Enterprise Linux Log.

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