Novell, IBM Sync on Mixed Linux Stack

Novell is bundling more and more software with its Suse Linux distribution, this week announcing a partnership with IBM that puts Big Blue’s proprietary WebSphere and DB2-Express C database technologies alongside open source Suse Linux.

The Integrated Stack for Suse Linux Enterprise will combine Linux and closed code to create competition for rival Red Hat, which rolled out a similar software stack last month. Red Hat’s latest application stack packs recently-acquired JBoss middleware technology on top of Red Hat’s Linux.

Comparing the two Linux stacks, Novell Director of Marketing for Linux and Open Source Justin Steinman said Red Hat’s solution is actually more open source software-based, while Novell’s is entirely open standards, allowing inclusion of proprietary technology from IBM.

“Mixed source is a fundamental bedrock of Novell’s business model,” Steinman told LinuxInsider. “There’s a place for open source and proprietary code. At the end of the day, we’re all about solving business problems.”

Matching the Stack

Although Novell will also continue to support JBoss technology, the company’s main market push will be its Suse Linux integrated stack, Steinman noted.

The technology — described as ideal for small and medium businesses for serving file-and-print, Web application, and database functionality on IBM hardware — is not a response to Red Hat’s stack, as it was already in development when that package was announced, Steinman said. However, Novell’s stack is, in fact, aimed squarely at Red Hat’s integrated solution.

“Is it competing with it? Absolutely,” he said.

The integrated Suse stack, optimized for IBM System x and BladeCenter servers, also includes Centeris Likewise server management software. It is immediately available at a variety of pricing levels on IBM hardware, with the first-year software subscription priced at US$350.

Packaging Trend

Despite some trepidation around mixing open and closed source solutions, Steinman said he did not see a downside for business users.

A trend currently exists in which operating system and other technology vendors bundle more software with their distributions in response to customers asking for more integration with more applications. Novell, for one, offers stacks for the retail industry as well as for high-performance computing (HPC).

“An operating system doesn’t solve a business problem,” Steinman said. “An operating system and an application does, and it solves the problem with a price advantage.”

Logical Step

Enterprises are typically willing to mix open and closed code and have been doing so internally for some time, Illuminata Senior Analyst Gordon Haff told LinuxInsider.

While Red Hat is moving literally up the software stack from the operating system into middleware, Novell has a history in identity management and other enterprise applications, he said. Logically, Novell is now looking to sell those apps on top of its Linux.

Its deal with IBM makes sense given the strong, historic partnership between Big Blue and Suse, he added.

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