The Slim Possibility That Microsoft’s SUSE Deal Could Be Good for Linux

Well July has come and gone for another year here in the Linux blogosphere, and not a moment too soon. It was a Microsoft-filled month, and that trend continued right up until the very end.

Case in point? Hard on the heels of Redmond’s little birthday present to Linux a few weeks ago, the Windows behemoth and SUSE announced last week that they are renewing the years-long patent deal originally signed by Novell but due to expire next year.

Through the new agreement, specifically, the deal is being extended until 2016, and Microsoft will invest another US$100 million in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server certificates for customers receiving Linux support from SUSE.

‘A Solid Foundation for Tomorrow’

The “interoperability agreement,” as Microsoft called it, is intended to help customers bridge the open source and proprietary worlds, the company said.

“Our collaboration with SUSE not only helps customers to achieve success today, but also seeks to provide them with a solid foundation for tomorrow,” said Sandy Gupta, general manager of the Open Solutions Group at Microsoft.

“Through our continued engagement on the technical side, an outstanding support offering from SUSE and our ability to provide mutual IP assurance, we feel confident that we will be able to deliver core value to those running mixed-source IT environments well into the future — and into the cloud,” Gupta added.

‘I’m More Than a Little Concerned’

Now, for most of us here in the Linux blogosphere, the very idea of any kind of partnership with Microsoft brings on a severe attack of the willies.

This one was no exception.

“I’m more than a little concerned that Microsoft now has its fingers in LibreOffice, at least by proxy,” wrote Anonymous Coward on Slashdot, for example. “From the Membership Committee members who pick who can and who cannot join the Document Foundation, to the small number of engineers who control write access to the master source code repository, LibreOffice is dominated by Novell/SUSE engineers.”

‘The Dupe Is Red Hat’

The intent of the deal, meanwhile, appears to be at least in part taking business away from Red Hat, Anonymous Coward suggested.

“In other words, Microsoft’s patent FUD used to steer Red Hat customers to SUSE,” Anonymous Coward explained. “The dupe, of course, is Red Hat, which is a LibreOffice supporter, supporting a SUSE-led project that is propped up by Microsoft in order to steal customers away from Red Hat.”

Slashdot blogger Kalriath saw it differently.

‘Why Are You Complaining?’

“Um, is it not a good thing that more companies are offering Linux support, no matter how vile you think those companies are?” Kalriath pointed out.

“It lends credibility to Linux as an enterprise and small business solution,” Kalriath added. “And let’s be honest — Linux is king of the datacentre, but when it comes to in-house servers, they’re still primarily Windows. If Microsoft wants to erode their own market share, why are you complaining?”

Bloggers at ZDNet, at OStatic and more soon weighed in with their own opinions, so Linux Girl knew it was time to learn more.

‘More One-Way Technologies’

“Every time they talk about interoperability I think of Mono, where if you design for Linux it’s cross-platform but if you design for Windows it only works on Windows,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told Linux Girl.

“The same goes for authentication: You can link Linux machines to a Windows domain but not the reverse,” Mack added. “We just don’t need that sort of ‘interoperability,’ and this deal is more of the thin edge of the wedge of feeding us more one-way technologies.”

Blogger Robert Pogson saw the move as part of Microsoft’s long-term survival strategy.

A Strategy for Survival

“M$ is afraid of FLOSS, and will continue to pay off Suse as long as M$ sees divide and conquer as a viable strategy,” Pogson explained. “With its recent assault via software patents, that will continue until SCOTUS or US Congress kill software patents.”

Software patents will, however, die sooner or later, Pogson asserted, “and M$ will see Suse and GNU/Linux as another attempt at diversification. M$ is already making far more money from segments other than its OS, but it will be a gradual shift to a normal competition on price/performance over the next few years.”

As the world shifts toward Android for mobile devices, “M$ will want segments of its business making money on Linux and Linux-embedded devices,” he predicted. “It will not be able to rest solely on exacting royalties. Imagine the calamity M$ would face if royalties became the basis of profitability and SCOTUS kicked software patents to the gutter.”

‘Linux Doesn’t Even Have Bottle Rockets’

Not everyone saw it that way, however.

Microsoft “is trying to be like IBM in having a ‘one stop shop’ for a corporation’s needs, and with deals like this it makes it that much easier for MSFT to sell WinServer,” Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told Linux Girl. “SUSE is a really good solid business Linux, and with HyperV MSFT can host plenty of SUSE instances alongside Windows, making it a nice proposition for businesses.”

Patents, meanwhile, “are here to stay,” hairyfeet opined, “and without a solid source of revenue, FOSS is showing up to a gunfight with a Nerf bat.

“The way you win at patents is Mutually Assured Destruction, and while the other guys have ICBMs, poor Linux with the ‘free as in beer’ model doesn’t even have bottle rockets,” he added.

‘A Lot Harder to Get Sued’

So, it’s “simply good business” for companies to strike licensing deals with Microsoft, hairyfeet concluded.

“It is much cheaper in the long run than a decade-plus-long court case,” he explained. “Having access to the MSFT patent portfolio makes SUSE a hell of a lot harder to get sued by the likes of Apple or one of the myriad trolls out there.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.


  • First of all, can someone PLEASE give Pogson a good slapping? Please? I mean you want to see a good example of why Linux users are thought of as maladjusted basement dwellers Pogson and his tired old "M$" crud is a text case. I mean the guy will NEVER write Microsoft, or MSFT, or MS, he acts like it is "He who shall not be named" which just REALLY make Linux look like the OS for tinfoil hat wearers.

    second of all the MSFT/SUSE deal simply makes good business sense. If someone is gonna use a mixed environment MSFT would rather be the one to sell it to them. Is that surprising? Look at old IBM and how they have become a "one stop shop" for business solutions. THAT is what MSFT is going for. They have partners in Dell and HP writing drivers and providing the hardware, they have the OSes in WinServer and SUSE, and they have the virtualization in HyperV.

    So it just makes good business sense. With this deal MSFT can offer a single solution that lets businesses run their internal facing servers on WinServer for AD and GPO (which frankly I have yet to see ANY Linux come close to the integration and ease of use of WinServer+GPO+AD+Sharepoint+Exchange+Office) while running their webservers on SUSE This way a business gets the best of both worlds, the internal ease of use and control of Windows and the solid and industry standard Linux webserver with Apache. And it is all right there in one place, with one person to call if things go wrong. that is just good business sense and if Pogson would loosen the tinfoil hat that is cutting off flow of blood to his brain he’d see that it is just good business, nothing more.

  • Microsoft controls the conversation with the customer by being an agent for Suse.

    The best and the brightest are not inventing for Microsoft though. There is an alternative for a patent purchaser in Google.

    This is the time of MS domain over IT, but what will it look like in 20 years? Trolling will not be an option for them.

    As far as MS/Suse goes…Old story..nothing new..just a extension…a payoff…

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