The Waltham Pact: Where are the tangibles?

The Waltham Pact: Where are the tangibles?

Summary:  This week, Microsoft renewed their union with Novell, to the tune of an additional 100 million dollars in commitment to buy more SUSE Linux support certificates that it can sell to its customers. Dang, Ballmer, for that kind of cash, you can get your vows renewed in Vegas, with the REAL Elvis.



This week, Microsoft renewed their union with Novell, to the tune of an additional 100 million dollars in commitment to buy more SUSE Linux support certificates that it can sell to its customers. Dang, Ballmer, for that kind of cash, you can get your vows renewed in Vegas, with the REAL Elvis. I'm not even going to mention what kind of a group package you can get at the Mustang Ranch.

Although this might be considered a minority and controversial opinion on this particular relationship as an Open Source advocate, I happen to feel that the Novell and Microsoft alliance is a good thing. Having these two work together to improve interoperability between Linux and Microsoft's systems is potentially very beneficial to both Microsoft and Novell's customers, and despite a small number of very vocal FOSS Community Whiners (FCWs) who have taken Novell to task for it in the past and accuse the company of compromising Open Source principles in the process, many folks --- read as "reasonable people who are oriented towards business solutions, fostering productive uses of technology and not mired in religious dogma" believe the alliance has made a positive impact (the so-called "Halo Effect") on increasing Linux adoption in the enterprise. Yeah, go ahead and send me hate mail and fire bomb my house. I said my opinion was going to be unpopular.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

Still, even I have questions about how effective the Union actually has been for its stated core purpose, which was to promote interoperability. Oh, don't get me wrong, we know it's all about making money if you want to get into the realpolitik. However, since the initial commitment between the two companies in 2006, what exactly in terms of Linux and Windows interoperability has been achieved as a result of this partnership?

Well there's... Mono? Sure, Novell has access to Microsoft's developers and documentation for re-implementing .NET on Linux, but Microsoft has hardly made a college try to help Novell actually FINISH Mono or commit programmers to the effort.  Hell, if Microsoft took one million dollars of that hundred million, and earmarked a few of its .NET developers as consulting staff to Novell for 3 years, you can bet they would get to parity with the one on Windows, at least so it isn't always broken with the latest implementation of whatever API. Now, I'm not blaming Microsoft for not being open with Novell -- it's not their implicit responsibility to build Open Source projects -- Mono is a Novell sponsored, community effort. But if Microsoft really wants to see .NET running on literally every OS, then Mono is going to need more than just "here's our docs and call our guys and come on campus whenever you want when you need help, Miguel. Oh and by the way, have some free Diet Cokes and go use our Starbucks in the lounge."

And what about improving networking interoperability and such? Well, Novell had very little to do with that -- the EU forced Microsoft's hand into opening a whole bunch of documentation to the SAMBA folks. Still, I don't see a polished Active Directory implementation for Linux built by Novell that leverages anything SAMBA is doing. And Windows file formats on Linux? Granted, there has been some improvement in Novell's own implementation, but does it render Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents 100 percent flawlessly when you save and exchange data between the two platforms? No? Then I'd say they have a lot more work to do. For another million off that SUSE license commitment, why not lend some Microsoft Office people to Novell for a year to make PERFECT filters for Novell's implementation which they could then contribute to the upstream And I'm not talking about Open XML support. I'm talking perfect support for existing Office file formats that people use right now.

And why should this alliance be exclusive to Novell? If we were to compare this to something like, I dunno... the old school Warsaw Pact (I picked this analogy because Microsoft is the Evil Empire) then the "Waltham Pact" should be extended to Novell and Microsoft Partners. As with the old Cold War country club, we need some Czechoslovakias, East Germanys and Romanias in the mix in addition to just the Soviet Union and Poland. Why not bring companies like CodeWeavers into the alliance and help them make Office 2007 run PERFECTLY on Linux, and make it a "Kosher" implementation of Win32 on the Novell SLED platform? Why not bring Centrify in and indemnify them so that they can either Open Source their product without fear of litigation, or dramatically reduce the cost of their Active Directory product for Novell and Microsoft customers? This is just scratching the surface of obvious synergies that could be leverged for the common good and to the benefit of both parties.

You know, for a lot less than a hundred million dollars, you could do an awful lot to improve Linux and Windows interoperability. Talk Back and let me know what else the "Waltham Pact" can do.

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • I don't see it.

    I don't see where this is helping anyone. It seems like any help MS is giving to Novell is being tied up at Novell. For instance Novell's version of Open Office. I don't really see any of that coming down or over to other vendors.

    Also lets look at the big linux players. Who is king? Red Hat. Why is Red Hat king? Because while Novell is trying to make Suse do the dance with Windows, Red Hat is doing what they do best.. LINUX!

    To be honest I think Oracle is doing Linux as well and getting as much business as Novell at this point! LOL!

    But really MS is only helping Novell's bottom line in the short term. MS will make a small profit. Novell will get a couple of buckets of cash and Red Hat will be the first billion dollar open source company.

    Suse is a great product but it's getting too netware like. Kind of open, mostly closed and soon forgotten.
    • Red Hat King ?!

      I'd beg to differ with you on that. By far the Debian distros are really starting to dominate and Ubuntu seems to be the bright kid on the block (IMHO). One of the biggest mistakes that Novell made was buying Suse and committing it's resources to a Red Hat based distro. It takes more than three hours to install SLES on a desktop, 30 minutes for Hardy Heron.
      • Not a monopoly yet

        One of the reasons Microsoft decided to assist Novell with SuSE was that it's the only competitor to Red Hat in commercial Linux. And with Oracle's attempt to move customers by offering cheaper "service" not especially successful, supporting a direct competitor is more necessary.

        A reason for Oracle's lack of success was that Oracle might make changes to Red Hat's Linux which could create difficulties with applications.

        Ubuntu's deal with Dell might have helped make it a third competitor, but I haven't seen any progress after that start.
        Anton Philidor
  • Perfect Point

    This hasn't been about making money...yet. What has happened from this alliance is that businesses that are in the business of making money see that it continues to be safe to look to linux for true business solutions.

    And like a slow moving train that is picking up speed, time is on the side of Novell as it is continually legitimized as a real player with their business-driven linux approach.

    Yes, there is more that could be done. And it will be done, it is time now that is in the way, not technology, and the market place will slowly put pressure on vendors to deliver their solutions on Linux, and as they do, the eco-system around the linux platform will continue to mature, and as it does, Novell will be perceived as the business focused Linux player, with the partnerships, products, solutions, and overall strategy that companies will be looking for to feel comfortable about an increase presence of Linux in their Enterprise.

    Richard Bliss
  • Past interoperability

    I'm happy with this new influx of Microsoft's cash into Linux. Exactly because that's what it is: extra money being pumped into open source development. It doesn't matter from whom the money comes.

    Never mind the interoperability goals, good as they may be: further development in Linux is always welcome on *every* aspect. For that, you need developers. Now Novell can hire some more. And those developers can work in other fields as well, not only in interoperability.

    When openSUSE and SLED benefit, all Linux distributions benefit. That's the power of open source. And that's why it's Realpolitik, to applaud this Novell-Microsoft deal. :-)

    Greeting, Pjotr.
  • Nothing to do with FOSS.

    Novell needs the capital. As far as the halo effect, the devil was an angel too.

    There is no reason to believe MS is doing this for anyone's benefit but their own. This is just an opportunity for them to keep their finger on the pulse of SuSE installations. It is a way for them to convince SuSE users that there is no need to run anything other than Windows.

    When it comes to business, Novell has been stupid from day one. To have the best NOS in the world and to lose out to a half baked NOS like Windows NT, that pretty much speaks for itself. And now they have ownership of the best Linux distro in the world and still can't pull it off.

    Interoperability, give me a break.
    • SUSE the best distro?????

      Not to me it isn't. I have tried SUSE several times and I found it to be a terrible distro. In fact, I have converted several SUSE servers to RedHat because it just works. I use Fedora exclusively on my home systems. I can load and configure a fully running system in about 30 minutes.

      No, SUSE needs a lot more work. Windows and SUSE...Two bad OS's that deserve each other.
      linux for me
  • Novell the new SCO

    Surely the point of the $100 million investment is no different to the "investments" Mircosoft made in SCO. It helps mess the market up and spread that over used word FUD in the market about Unix and its derivatives.

    Novel has given up the network market the unix market so it either gets to sue MS or work with it for a few more years.
    • re Novell the new SCO

      Except Novell actually owns UNIX
      • This is a VERY IMPORTANT "except" ...

        ... because Novell is sitting in the catbird seat. It can do pretty much whatever it wants with regards to UNIX/Linux.

        Everyone else in the UNIX world is beholden to Novell. If cross-licensing of technology costs Balmer $100 million dollars a year, so what?

        Balmer gets to keep any serious threat from desktop Linux at bay. Novell gets to keep RedHat at bay. Microsoft keeps the Department of Justice at bay by offering interoperability (and keeping a non-threatening Linux vendor in business). AND everyone gets to poke IBM in the eye.
        M Wagner
  • That's not interoperability

    The suggestions in the Comment are obviously intended to make the Microsoft ecosystem more available to Linux in order to encourage Linux use. Why would Microsoft follow that strategy?

    How about, Linux remains Linux and for those organizations intending to use both Microsoft products and Linux, the company will suppply the Linux and assure that all the software works well together.

    Almost as well as an all-Microsoft software installation.

    You can trust Microsoft, even to do Linux. And when the time comes to extrude Linux for a Microsoft product, the company will be able to do the conversion so smoothly that almost no one in the customer's operation will know the difference. Like the displacement of Netware.

    Doesn't that appear a better proposition for a company which is appropriately looking to increase its profits?
    Anton Philidor
  • FCWs <--- That's great -LOL...nt

  • RE: The Waltham Pact: Where are the tangibles?

    Don't you mean "Warsaw Pact"?
  • Code injection if you ask me...

    ...that and building a case to say "see Linux doesn't work". All they are doing is letting Miguel and Novell inject their old...repeat....old code into the Linux community. Some folk seem hell bent on trying to push Mono code into everything with no real explanation of benefits. In fact Sun appears to have at least hepled make the Java platform open. It would make more sense to rally around that right now if you wanted an open language at that level. Its current from what I can see. Mono the last time I looked was .Net 1.1 and .Net is on 3.5 and moving ahead rapidly. Now is this doesn't set off some alarm bells then I don't know what will.
  • Tainted tangibles?

    Are people really using Mono? The real development in Linux is Java, PHP, Python, and Ruby. People are looking beyond Java, and they're sure not seeing .NET -- does anyone but MS really want .NET, Silverlight, and all that junk on Linux? (The only thing I can see is getting Photoshop to run on Linux, so people can finally shut up about GIMP/Photoshop. But then 80% of Linux app discussion would cease!) MS may be throwing dollars at Novell, but it's sure not doing ANYTHING to disclose the hundreds of patents Linux was said to violate. It's like MS has three different departments: the cozy up to open source department, the throw money at open source department to re-mold it in its own image, and the FUD department. Maybe they ought to have a meeting and compare notes?
  • And then Microsoft and Novell merge -

    business as usual.
    • Microsoft cannot afford to absorb Novell.

      The anti-trust people at the DoJ would be on Microsoft "like a duck on a junebug". Keeping them alive by paying them $100 million at a time serves the same purpose anyway.
      M Wagner
  • Likewise Open


    In reference to "...I don't see a polished Active Directory implementation for Linux built by Novell that leverages anything SAMBA is doing..." and "Why not bring Centrify in...", you might want to look at Likewise Open in This is EXACTLY what you're asking for (caveat the Microsoft indemnification).

    Manny Vellon
    CTO, Likewise Software
    • I was unaware

      ... that LikeWise had Open Sourced any of its products. I will definitely look at it.
  • Why does Microsoft even need to try?

    I think anything in this open source arena is simply PR fluff. I have no problem with that. Open Source is not how Microsoft makes money. They continue to do well so why would they spend alot of time and resources trying to find a way to make money in a fashion that is completely contrary to all of thier business practices that have made Microsoft so successful.

    Open Source and Microsoft just doesn't make sense.