Red Hat hits out at Microsoft, Novell pact

Big questions over sudden partnership

The recent sales and intellectual property agreement struck between Microsoft and Linux distributor Novell has left rival Red Hat pondering ulterior motives.

Red Hat's general manager for Australia and New Zealand, Max McLaren, said the only thing he can think of as to why the two companies would do this is that Microsoft "held something over" Novell.

"Why would you sell your soul like that, and what is Microsoft's intention?" McLaren said. "Is Microsoft going to sell SuSE subscriptions and bundle it with their own server when customers want a mixed environment. Why would they do that?"

Last week, Microsoft announced it would support SuSE Linux on machines that run Windows and promised not to assert patent rights to any software incorporated into Novell's Linux distribution.

The deal is seen as a significant endorsement of open source and Linux from the world's largest software company and a blow to Red Hat, but many in the open source industry have questioned Microsoft's motives for such a move.

McLaren believes the deal is reminiscent of a Microsoft partnership with Corel which was consistent with an "embrace, extend, and exterminate" philosophy.

Microsoft and Novell have also pledged to work together on virtualization, Web services, and open document specifications to aid interoperability.

"Web services and Open Document Format (ODF) are driven by standards, so I can't understand for the life of me the reason for this collaboration," McLaren said. "Novell has never really increased Linux market share but we do come in contact with them in the Netware migration space."

The Microsoft, Novell announcement was the second shot at Red Hat, coming immediately after Oracle announced it would offer its own supported Linux distribution, to which McLaren said: "that's just Larry being Larry".

"Our strategy is to explain our value proposition. Oracle is taking [Red Hat derivative] CentOS and creating their own Linux fork [so] Oracle's Linux is a third derivative of Red Hat," he said. "We address 95 percent of security vulnerabilities within one day and 100 percent within two days. You want one throat to choke with Linux, so we don't think Oracle is going to win much but there is a lot of hype around it."

McLaren said big OEMs like HP and IBM are unlikely to certify Oracle's Linux distribution because of the time and expense involved.

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