Novell linked to 'Windows cheaper than Linux' statement

Novell linked to 'Windows cheaper than Linux' statement

Summary: Only last month Novell's boss vowed to attack Microsoft at every opportunity, but now the open-source company has announced a high-profile joint project with HSBC


Novell has issued a joint press release with Microsoft, in which HSBC, a customer of joint technology from the two companies, claims that Windows has a lower total cost of ownership than Linux.

The press release, issued late on Wednesday, announced that UK-based bank HSBC has agreed to adopt technology from Novell and Microsoft's recently announced partnership.

In the release, Matthew O'Neill, group head of distributed systems for HSBC Global IT operations, states that the bank's existing Linux environment is more expensive to maintain than its Windows environment. "Some will be surprised to learn that our Windows environment has a lower total cost of ownership than our current Linux environment."

HSBC claims it will achieve cost savings by reducing the number of Linux distributions it uses and by improving the interoperability of its open-source operating system deployments with Windows. "Our decision to simplify our mixed-source environment with Microsoft and Novell will allow us to reduce the cost and complexity," said O'Neill.

Although it is unclear at this time which Linux distributions the bank is using, the fact Novell is associated with a statement that claims Linux has a higher total cost of ownership than Windows will surprise and anger many in the open-source community.

Previously, Novell has been a vociferous proponent of the cost savings offered by open-source software. Speaking at BrainShare, the company's annual user conference in Barcelona in 2004, Novell chief Jack Messman claimed that Microsoft's exhaustive licence fees for Windows have prevented end-user organisations and independent software developers from directing cash into more "innovative" software.

"I am of the opinion that innovation has been slowed because of Microsoft. It has sucked $60bn out of our industry that could have been used for innovation," Messman said. "My vision is that companies won't have to spend so much on operating systems which have been commoditised and spend more on innovation."

But after a long and bloody tussle with Microsoft over patents that both parties held on each other's software, Novell announced in November last year that it was laying aside its past differences with the Redmond company and launching a partnership.

The companies said that they will collaborate on development of specific technologies, for example to help Windows work with Novell's Suse Linux. The companies will create a joint research facility at which they will build and test new products, and work with customers and the open-source community.

The research will include Novell offering a version of Suse Linux Enterprise Server with optimised virtualisation features for Windows Server Longhorn, expected to launch later this year.

Novell's Microsoft-friendly makeover was marked by the dismissal of its chief executive Jack Messman, who was let go in June last year. However, his replacement, Ron Hovsepian, has not completely resisted the odd dig at Microsoft.

Speaking at a press conference in Sydney recently, Hovsepian said he was pleased by the slow uptake of Microsoft's desktop operating system Vista."We're excited by the muted reaction to Vista," he said. "We're going to attack [Microsoft] vigorously and go after their footprint as much as we can," Hovsepian said.

Vista was five years in the making, so the code behind it is very complex according to Hovsepian, whereas open source is more nimble and flexible. "And we have got to take advantage of that."

The HSBC announcement will see the bank, which has 9,500 offices and 284,000 employees in 76 countries, sign up to a three-year support subscription to Suse Linux Enterprise Server from Novell.

Despite the marked differences in approach between open-source supporters and proprietary companies such as Microsoft, HSBC's blended approach to using the software is not uncommon. Speaking at a conference last year, Phil Dawson, Gartner research vice president, said that the analyst group was increasingly receiving feedback from its clients showing that there is a real growth in companies that want to run open-source software stacks on top of Windows, or proprietary software on top of Linux.

"The traditional approach has been an all-commercial Windows stack or a full open-source, Linux-based stack, but these are two extremes of the pendulum. The real growth is in the middle ground," Dawson said.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

Andrew Donoghue

About Andrew Donoghue

"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism."

Hunter S. Thompson

Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journalist with over ten years on leading titles such as Computing, SC Magazine, BusinessGreen and

Specialising in sustainable IT and technology in the developing world, he has reported and volunteered on African aid projects, as well as working with charitable organisations such as the UN Foundation and Computer Aid.

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  • Depends how you configure your infrastructure

    The point being made is that they will go from their current setup which is expensive to maintain to another setup with an equal amount of linux which will be less expensive to maintain. They don't say that Linux can't be cheaper than Windows, they say their current configuration currently isn't cheaper than Windows. Costs of ownership can be driven up by lack of training, lack of standardization, lack of automation, lack of administrative tools, etc. and those same factors can drive up Windows total cost of ownership as well.
  • "Like watching a child eating a bug for money"

    Clever FUD neatly explained by Jeremy Allison on his departure from Novell. For example see

    News such as this proves Novell is no good for Open Source.

    Anybody who tells you any different either doesn't know what they're talking about or needs their head examined.
  • Re: Like watching a child eating a bug for money

    Much better that people quit Novell in protest so that Novell will no longer be paying for their contributions despite the fact Novell will still have access to all the open source contributions they make. Of course users should switch to another distribution like Ubuntu which comes with Novell led Evolution, Novell's version of OpenOffice, Mono, 3D pizzaz, etc. because it is much better. The threat of course is not the lawsuits but the promise of not suing... there is nothing scarier than two companies agreeing not to sue each others customers.
  • It's Official

    Novell is officially Microsoft's bitch. The $250.00 program is cheaper than the FREE program statement has always been, is, and will always be the single stupidest statement in the history of man. It assumes that your IT people are too stupid to do their jobs without someone holding their hand. Our shop has 8 mission critical Linux boxes running 24/7 with 0 help from support. (Fedora 5) Learn your job and you don't need to pay MS or anyone else to do it for you.
  • Novell's confusing messaging

    I think the confusing thing about Novell's current strategy is that they are giving out some seriously mixed messaging
    Andrew Donoghue
  • To clarify HSBC's problems.

    I found this interesting article on

    "The main reason for choosing Windows was that the development and operations staff, as well as the traders, were more familiar with Windows. Also, the main grid applications HSBC used - Sophis, Summit and Microsoft Excel - ran mainly on Windows."

    "Some 95% of the production grid (HSBC also runs test grids) runs on Windows, but 5% - a couple of hundred servers - run on Linux servers."

    "HSBC had to do a lot of the development work, writing an application programming interface (API) to allow its risk calculation program to run on the grid."

    "These machines run a risk management application that runs only on Linux."

    To summarize, HSBC had to do a lot of development work on Linux, which they weren't familiar with, couldn't function on the grid normally, only accounted for 5% or less of their infrastructure, and only ran a risk management application.

    I would think, yes. It would probably cost them more than running Linux than Windows. This was never an attack on Linux.

    If all goes well, the Novell-Microsoft partnership will fix this.
  • I don't see a mixed message

    The reality is that the total cost of ownership for Windows and Linux both vary greatly depending on configurations, workloads, and skillsets. If HSBCs most complex workload is on Linux and its most simplistic workloads are on Windows then it would be no surprise that the costs would be higher on Linux for them. HSBC probably isn't using Linux for basic file serve and print functions where Linux would be dirt cheap compared to Windows. HSBC's total cost of ownership for Linux is what it is and if HSBC is switching to Novell then they obviously expect that to change with their product which is by far the loudest message.

    Novell should be hoping Vista doesn't do well because that would benefit their product line. Working with Microsoft products is a fact of life for the majority of software on the market so a deal where they work together occurs on key areas makes sense but it doesn't change the fact that they are competing against each other at the same time. Microsoft has an Office Suite for Mac. Apple creates Quicktime and iTunes for Windows. Novell has Windows software. Microsoft will support Linux in a virtual machine. It isn't really a mixed message... it is a realization that there are mixed environments in the marketplace.

    It has been 4 months since the deal was made. In the end I don't think the MS deal will result in anything negative beyond the negative the community creates. There is far more FUD coming out of the mouths of so called supporters of Linux by constantly harping on the Novell-MS deal and how it creates risk than out of the mouths of Novell or MS. Since the deal has MS talked about suing? Nope. Obviously Novell denies a there is an issue. Who keeps bringing up the theoretical negatives? In the end it is incredibly unlikely that MS will do anything because it would hurt their their reputation to be going against the will of the entire technical community. How could MS attack Linux while at the same time selling certificates to customers for it? It would be hard for MS to convince the public that Linux supporters are crooks when those supporters include Novell, IBM, HP, etc, and they are giving it to customers. They would have less backlash going after grandma for using a pirated version of Windows.
  • sucking sound?

    Given that both Novell and HSBC are sucking wind right now this is fairly meaningless. HSBC is losing tons of cash on subprime mortgages as that entire industry is imploding. Novell has been in a very slow, agonizing death spiral since the introduction of NT. Somebody cut off life support already!
  • Virtualisation blurring lines

    Thanks for that information on HSBC. It seems that some of the battle lines between Open source and proprietary are blurring
    Andrew Donoghue
  • Very confused

    What part of "Novell linked to 'Windows cheaper than Linux' statement" don't you understand?
  • Comment from Novell


    This is Bruce Lowry in Novell's PR department. Your headline is a bit alarmist, and I'd argue the the gist of the article is off keel. To try to suggest we're making a about-face on TCO arguments on LInux is just wrong. I've heard Matthew O'Neill at HSBC explain this situation. HSBC did a benchmark assessment of their internal IT environment. In the course of that, they concluded it was costing them more to run their varied Linux environment than their Windows environment. Their Linux environment included many different builds (some 50 or so) of different distributions. That created challenges in terms of systems management, application compatibility, life cycle management, etc. This was costing them money. By moving to a standardized SUSE Linux Enterprise, they expect to lower the TCO of their Linux environment.

    So this wasn't a blanket statement that Windows is cheaper than Linux. Novell wouldn't associate itself to a statement like that.

  • Yes but ...

    While that explanation is a reasonable explanation, the fact that Novell agreed to the press release as it is worded shows that Novell has not done due diligence regarding the misuse that Microsoft would make of such a statement. Hence, Novell has yet again acted both irresponsibly and negligently with regard to its responsibilities to the Linux community.
  • What was your TCO?

    How much (in total) did your company spend to install, configure and optimize those 8 boxes? How many technicians does your shop have to run them? How much do you spend for their salaries?

    In other words, what was your TOTAL cost of ownership? I'm sure everyone would be curious to know.
    Marty R. Milette
  • TCO of Windows?


    Thanks for your comments. On being told about this story
    Andrew Donoghue
  • Further Novell reply

    Thanks, Andrew. We'll look forward to seeing Colin next week. On the broader issue of mixed messages, I think we've actually been pretty clear. From the first day of the Novell-Microsoft announced, we said we'd continue to compete with Microsoft in many areas - on servers, on the desktop, with our identity mangement and systems management tools. We believe Linux is a stronger platform for running the business. We believe the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop is a viable alternative to Vista.

    However, what we've also acknowledged, with this agreement, is that Windows is a reality in almost every organization on the planet, and that, if we want to help customers, we need to make Linux work better with Windows. So our position is clear - we'll push our solutions, including SUSE Linux Enterprise, with customers. But, for those customers who are running both Linux and Windows together (which is an increasingly large number of customers), we're going to make it easier for them.

    We haven't reduced our commitment to Linux in any way, shape, or form. This deal makes Linux even more important for Novell's business. We continue to contribute significantly to the open source community, in projects like,, Mono, Bandit, Higgins, and many more. If, by working with Microsoft, we can help drive Linux into new areas, that's good for Linux, not just for Novell.

    We know there is a segment of the community that doesn't like our agreement with Microsoft, and probably never will. But we'll continue to work to improve Linux, and many other open source technologies, and to deliver solutions that make life easier for the customer.

  • Your Story Title is Misleading.

    Follow the link

    and tell me again how Novell is supporting "Windows cheaper than Linux" statement!?

    The statement right there is valid - given (a) M$ Windows and Novell Suse only environment VERSUS (b) M$ Windows, Suse, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Mandrake etc Linux distribution environment, which of the two environments is supposed to have a lower TCO?

    And I didn't see anywhere, where Novell admitted that "Windows is cheaper than Linux"!?