A spokeswoman for Microsoft clarified:
Microsoft sells these SUSE Linux certificates as a reseller and collects the revenue. The software giant bought 70,000 certificates from Novell when the partnership launched. In a nutshell, Microsoft is the reseller of these certificates and recoups its initial payment to Novell. Who knows if there's a profit on them?
Meanwhile, one Linux certificate represents support for one server. Novell provides the support on Microsoft issued SUSE Linux certificates. Thus far, Microsoft has sold 16,000 certificates. Microsoft wouldn't disclose whether the three financial services companies in the press release earlier today are the parties that bought all 16,000 certificates. In other words, it's possible there are more customers taking the Microsoft-Novell partnership for a spin. But given the number of servers at financial services firms it's probable that those three companies were the buyers.
As for whether AIG and Credit Suisse were existing customers of Novell--Deutsche Bank indicated it was a customer of both Microsoft and Novell--neither company would publicly say.
In sum, the next key milestone in the Microsoft-Novell partnership is the 70,000 certificate mark. If Microsoft sells that many SUSE certificates it will be a proof of concept for the partnership. From there Microsoft will have to decide whether to buy more certificates from Novell and resell them or just send mixed source customers to Novell directly.