Now that Microsoft and SUSE have announced they plan to continue sleeping together, I wonder if the folks at Techrights are rethinking their plans to pull the plug on Boycott Novell?
In case you don’t know, Boycott Novell is a project started by Techrights in response to Microsoft’s and Novell’s announcement, in 2006, that they would be collaborating on Windows and Linux interoperability and support. The deal had Redmond shoveling money to Novell’s Linux distro SUSE in $100 million increments, and included an agreement that Novell’s customers wouldn’t be sued by Microsoft for patent infringements.
As originally worded, this patent deal was in complete violation of the GPL and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the real purpose here was to sow FUD, pure and simple. Soon afterward, if memory serves, Techrights began the Boycott Novel project to research and document the shenanigans between Microsoft and Novell. They found, of course, plenty of evidence that Novel was not the good open source player they wanted everyone to think they were, even if they did redeem themselves somewhat by their actions in the SCO case.
At the time Novell struck the deal with Microsoft, they were a relatively new player in the open source world. Three years earlier, in 2003, they separately acquired SUSE and Ximian in moves that seemed to be entirely opportunistic, meant to add sparkle to a once dominant but now aging proprietary software stack by piggybacking it atop popular and trusted Linux.
Ironically, up until that time, Novell and Microsoft had been archenemies, and much of Novell’s market share loses had been due to Redmond’s aggressive marketing. At the time of the SUSE purchase, many in the FOSS community had high hopes that Novell would become an open source asset, even though they had shown a proclivity in the past for snatching defeat out of the arms of victory. All hopes were dashed, however, when they embraced their old enemy with a deal they had to know wouldn’t set well in the FOSS world.
When Novell was acquired by Attachmate earlier this year, that era seemed to have come to an end. SUSE was split-off to become a separate company and Techrights pondered ending Boycott Novell:
“There is not much left to say about Novell. The company more or less vanished, so for Boycott Novell to be an active project would be hard. Novell did not reform itself (it got worse over time), but the alternative goal was achieved. We hoped to make Novell change its ways, ideally, and withdraw from the Microsoft deal due to public pressure, otherwise to just fail and give way to ethical companies.
“After spending hours researching for this post, we are left wondering if this is good use of time. Even Microsoft is an issue we mostly neglected with the exception of patent stories because a patent parasite is all we expect Microsoft to be within a few years.
“Based on what we found about Novell, not much of its core is even passed to Attachmate”
Indeed, it did seem that Boycott Novell had outlived it’s usefulness, until Monday’s announcement that Microsoft had renewed their deal with SUSE and would be putting $100 million into the Linux distro’s coffers. Although the announcement on the SUSE web site made no mention of patents, tech news sites like InformationWeek have indicated that it’ll be business as usual, with MS’s patent FUD being given the perception of legitimacy through SUSE:
“Microsoft on Monday said it agreed to extend by four years a controversial deal under which it resells SUSE Linux services to business customers and pledges not to sue those customers, or SUSE, for patent infringement.
‘Microsoft has long held that Linux violates its patents on parts of the Windows operating system, a claim rejected by advocates for the open source and free software communities. One such group, the Free Software Foundation, told InformationWeek that it plans to investigate whether Microsoft’s new deal with SUSE violates open source licensing terms.
“Under the renewed agreement, Microsoft is committed to purchasing $100 million worth of SUSE Linux certificates through 2015. Microsoft and SUSE also will work together to build and market software and services that combine Windows and Linux technology.”
In a blog published on Monday, The VAR Guy, as expected, saw no problem with the Microsoft/SUSE deal:
“…Admittedly, the Microsoft-SUSE relationship has triggered concerns within the open source community over the years.
“Still, The VAR Guy believes enterprise CIOs have largely applauded the Microsoft-SUSE work, since so many businesses are looking for ways to integrate Windows Server and Linux within private data centers and across public clouds.”
Unfortunately, The VAR Guy is probably correct. As long as the MS/SUSE deal doesn’t violate the terms of the GPL in a legalistic sense, I doubt many enterprise bigwigs care at all whether it violates the spirit of the license. On the contrary, the deal probably makes SUSE an attractive business choice for companies running both Linux and Windows, since they’ll be able to count on tech support from Microsoft for Windows/Linux interoperability issues which won’t be available if running another distro like Red Hat.
So where does that leave those of us who know this deal to be just plain wrong?
Techrights is probably right, even after this development. Really, nothing has changed, it’s just the same old deal extended for another four years. There may be nothing about this deal that doesn’t stink, and stink badly, but there’s nothing new here. Sadly, the Microsoft/SUSE connection would seem to have become a legacy with which we are doomed to live for as long as both companies are viable.
This is a real shame. There was a time when SUSE was considered by many to be the Rolls Royce of distros. Now it’s basically “Windows for Linux.” All they need to do now is add a “Start” button, a registry, and put it on a file system that’s prone to rapid fragmentation.