Novell MD on getting along with Microsoft

Novell MD on getting along with Microsoft

Summary: In 2006, Novell signed a deal with Microsoft over sales and disputed Linux patents. Now Novell UK's new head, Sean McCarry, describes how that relationship is shaping up


Novell has so far managed to weather global economic uncertainty — at a cost of about 100 engineering jobs in early February. Novell UK managing director Sean McCarry, who was appointed at the beginning of February, is bullish about Novell's prospects, arguing that open source will become increasingly attractive to businesses because of its potential for cost savings.

The company signed a deal with Microsoft in 2006 to collaborate over sales and to license patents Microsoft claims to hold over Linux. ZDNet UK caught up with McCarry to discuss the relationship with Microsoft and Novell's strategy for working with the technology company.

Q: How is the relationship between Microsoft and Novell?
A: It's going really well and customers are reaping the benefits. That relationship really kicked off in 2006 and goes through to 2012. Microsoft has injected a large investment.

People are absolutely delighted with the Microsoft relationship. We've got HMRC, the Ministry of Justice, ITV, and a long list of customers who we are working with, on either Red Hat migration or proprietary migrations.

Some in the open-source community — Boycott Novell, for example — still have issues with Novell and Microsoft. Does this affect customer perceptions?
The interoperability agreement was driven by customers. They wanted Novell and Microsoft in the datacentre or for document management. Novell and Microsoft working together has benefited customers. To offer a true solution across the datacentre, Novell had to work with Microsoft — and this can only be a good thing for the open-source community.

Has the agreement affected Novell's standing in the open-source community?
Novell is one of the largest contributors to the open-source community and we do take the community very seriously. We have a Microsoft [press] statement we can send you about that, that might help.

Novell agreed to pay Microsoft licensing fees on the understanding Microsoft would not assert patents it holds that supposedly cover Linux. These patents have never been tested in court and have never been publicly specified by Microsoft. Did Novell make too big a concession to Microsoft in submitting to its patent claims?
I think the intellectual-property conversation is really complex, but I'm not the right person to talk to about this [at Novell]. One aspect of the agreement was protection for Novell customers.

How is Novell working with Microsoft on business products?
The main strategy is technological interoperability with Windows Server 2008. That's all about optimising hosting and memory of Windows Server 2008 with Suse Linux, and standards-based...

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Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • You can tell...

    Novel is really getting along with Microsoft, they're taking the same policy of not answering the question you asked, but answering the question they think you should have asked.
  • Protection

    Either Novell (and others) know what the potential infringements are or it is 'Protection Money' .

    If Novell know what the infringements might be and are constrained by the Non Disclosure Agreement, then this is another can of worms altogether.

    In the alternative, if Microsoft continue with unsubstantiated claims of infringement, are they in fact undermining their ability to pursue these alleged claims through the courts.
    The Former Moley