I thought I was dreaming when a Microsoft friend told me yesterday that Microsoft and Red Hat are cooperating on virtualization.
But it is true, and somewhat inevitable for the reluctant rivals.
Microsoft and Red Hat will offer joint technical support on their respective virtualization platforms. This means that corporations and small businesses can comfortably deploy Windows Server workloads on Red Hat's Xen-based Linux and Red Hat Linux workloads on Windows Hyper-V.
It's not a technical feat, but a business feat. Red Hat joined Microsoft's Server Virtualization Validation Program. Microsoft has become a Red Hat partner for virtualization interoperability and support and will be listed in the Red Hat Hardware Certification List.
It's the technical support that both companies have agreed to offer for their respective workloads means customers won't be on their own if something goes wrong, which it always does, even in the best of IT worlds. With this agreement, customers can call either company if they have an issue. If that vendor can't solve the problem, then the other vendor will.
It's a good deal for customers: Microsoft is the only Windows supplier and Red Hat is the leading Linux provider. That makes them archrivals. Yet enabling interoperability between Windows and Red Hat Linux's Xen-based workloads benefits both companies. And offering technical support -- by both parties -- is essential for customers with increasingly mixed environments. It would be absurd in this economic era for these market leaders not to cooperate on tech support -- at the very least.
It's not a good deal for all.
Microsoft and Novell -- Red Hat's nemesis in the Linux market -- struck an interoperability pact a few years ago that has evolved into a tight partnership over time.
So what does this mean for Novell?
Probably more competition for Novell. Red Hat customers and potential Red Hat customers who plan to deploy virtualized workloads on multiple platforms (pretty much everyone) can count on one of those vendors or both to solve their problems. Only Novell offered this guarantee before.
Still, Novell has an advantage. The Microsoft-Novell pact is far more expansive than cooperation on virtualization. As Mary Jo Foley pointed out yesterday, the deal doesn't include patent protection and she cited one Burton analyst who noted that only 5.X based Red Hat Linux workloads will be supported and Windows workloads won't be certified on Red Hat Linux. Over time, Red Hat will fully embrace KVM, the rival open source hypervisor to Xen.
Chances are Novell will keep its coveted status as the most Windows friendly Linux. But now Red Hat can say it is somewhat Windows friendly, and vice versa, a feat that no one could have predicted just a few years ago.
So when will the Microsoft-VMware accord be announced?