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Red Hat-Microsoft: Take III

Posted in Asia, Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, Servers, SLES/SLED, Virtualisation, Windows, Xen at 7:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

NOW that we’ve had more time to debate the facts, we are able to come up with some more analysis — some better, some worse.

We start with the better by quoting one of our regular readers, oiaohm, who insists that “Red Hat’s Virtualistion deal with Microsoft is after something. [Windows] 2008 can run an unlimited number of Windows servers inside the Microsoft hypervisor under 1 licence. Now, if Red Hat can get the same, hello cheap central server running of Windows. Red Hat has been after the deal for 4 years. But would never sign off on patents unless it covered open source. Virtualisation is just a small bit of it. It really shows how weak Microsoft is at moment.”

This does not contradict what we wrote earlier [1, 2], but it makes a nice addition that confirms Microsoft’s fear. In contrast with oiaohm, the Var Guy believe that Red Hat was pressured to negotiate such a deal. He wrote that “this is a significant win for Red Hat and Microsoft’s mutual customers and partners. But The VAR Guy thinks Novell’s close relationship with Microsoft forced Red Hat to the negotiating table.”

GNOME RPMThere were many comments in Slashdot that took account of Novell. One person wrote that “It’s a real kick in the teeth for Novell. This is a perfectly straightforward deal of certifying each other’s systems on their virtual platforms that Novell couldn’t get right. In practice, Microsoft is providing no help whatsoever to Novell in running Windows on their virtual platform (which I don’t think Red Hat is expecting itself really) and they sold themselves down the river by agreeing to some elaborate coupon scheme that saw SLES servers totally surrounded by installations of Windows Server and AD domains. I don’t think they even realised what they’d signed up to. At least Red Hat gets some marketable press out of this without conceding anything.”

A personal stalker who goes by the name harlows_monkey or “Tim Smith” could not help throwing some slime when s/he wrote that “The best part is going to be watching the folks at boycottnovell rant about it. This is going to really pop some throbbing veins on their heads.”

“RHT are not agreeing in any way that Linux owes MSFT any IP rights.”One comment in Slashdot says: “No man, this means microsoft is now on its knees. And Novell is proven to have done it the wrong way and now look like idiots.”

Another reader defends Red Hat: “How does this qualify as “neutralizing?” RHT gave up nothing. F/OSS doesn’t suffer at all. This is no different from making RHEL work with any other third party closed source technology like Oracle or SAP. RHT and MSFT have simply recognized that there is a need for this interoperability, but RHT basically forced MSFT’s hand and MSFT backed down. This is, if anything, a huge victory for F/OSS.”

And another one: “Read TFA. This agreement contains *none* of the bullshit IP limitations Novell agreed to when they sold out. In this case Red Hat and MSFT are only cooperating from a *technical* standpoint. RHT are not agreeing in any way that Linux owes MSFT any IP rights. This is amazing news and sticks a finger in the eye of Novell’s sellout.”

This one highlights the key issue: “What the Novell/Microsoft deal primarily did was to lend credibility in the eyes of some people that to use many FOSS packages, you needed a patent license from Microsoft. The same applies to Linspire, Xandros, and the rest of those that actually signed patent deals with Microsoft over FOSS.”

Mary Jo Foley quotes Microsoft's media mole and also the Microsoft allies from the Burton Group. There is no new information there aside from a statement which refers to Xen and KVM because this sheds some light on yet-undisclosed details.

Heise Online has covered this too and so has Leah Rosin.

Timothy Prickett Morgan, who is very knowledgeable in this area, wrote on behalf of The Register.

The interoperability agreement has been forced on the two companies, which are not exactly natural allies or even particularly friendly even if they are mostly civil, by their respective customer bases, software partners, and resellers, explained Mike Evans, vice president of corporate development at Red Hat, and Mike Neil, general manager of virtualization strategy at Microsoft, in a Wwebcast this morning.

The Red Hat-Microsoft deal is short and sweet, and bears little resemblance to the landmark interoperability, licensing, and patent protection deal that Red Hat rival Novell signed with Microsoft in November 2006.

Lastly, DaniWeb brings back memories of April last year when Novell and Microsoft had entered China [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] and marketed Ballnux at the expense of local, well-established and Free distributions of GNU/Linux. Novell and Microsoft used lies and spin. They also spat at the likes of Red Hat to enforce “Linux tax”. Here is an hypothetical dialogue:

Almost 10 months ago, I wrote the post, “Dear China, Microsoft Wants to Charge You for Air Too” and now Novell follows up with its own plan to charge China for air. The Chinese assume that since Linux is open source that it means that it is less capitalistic and less money driven.

OK. Now let’s see if you can get them to believe that.

The conversation will go something like this:

Novell: Hi, we’re Novell–we represent the open source operating system, Linux.

China: Great. You did know that Red Hat and Microsoft both have already been here, didn’t you?

Novell: Yes, of course. Our version of Linux is better than Red Hat’s and we have an agreement with Microsoft. [Giggling in the background]

After the deal with with Red Hat, things may change. Red Hat too has an agreement with Microsoft, but it has nothing to do with patent royalties. So who would possibly choose SLES over equivalent but cheaper counterparts?

Novell cloud
Red Hat more likely to dominate the cloud

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  1. twitter said,

    February 17, 2009 at 2:01 pm


    Don’t think that M$ will stop their patent attack. Their new “legal blog” shows they are stepping the attack up rather than scaling it down. More cooperation with M$ makes that attack stronger in the minds of the ignorant. The more I think about this deal the less I like it. I hope the people at Red Hat have counters to the inevitable PR attack that will follow.

    Admitting that you need M$’s help or certification because you need some kind of non free software is like admitting that you need your master’s advice about how to build your slave cabin. There are very few applications where free software is not best but those should be something you can run on any distribution. As you noted, “interoperability” is always an assault on real standards.

  2. oiaohm said,

    February 17, 2009 at 6:31 pm


    You have the master and slave mixed up twitter. KVM redhat visualization software is a standard Linux Kernel feature available for free to all Linux Distributions.

    Also Redhat already worked on Hyper-V from Microsoft. So the only thing Redhat has said is that they would support Redhat running on Hyper-v.

    Now MS on the other hand has basically promised to make there OS work on the Open Source solutions without any strings. Note solutions. KVM and something else.

    Redhat is all about Standards in a lot of places. KVM is doing away with its userspace tools as they get merged into Qemu. We are not talking about something here that needs CPU support to work. OS running in Qemu software mode and a OS running in Qemu in KVM mode is almost no different other than speed. Qemu is not tied to any processor type. So powerpc servers could be turning over a x86 windows server in Qemu.

    This deal has ramifications for MS on a scale you cannot dream. No longer do server rooms have to stay x86 because MS needs x86.

    Hyper-v only works on x86 hardware.

  3. twitter said,

    February 18, 2009 at 11:08 am


    This deal has ramifications for MS on a scale you cannot dream. No longer do server rooms have to stay x86 because MS needs x86.

    This has been true for quite some time and it’s one of the things that allowed the City of Munich to move to GNU/Linux. If you think about it, the “need” for both Intel and M$ is strange. Free software has run well on dozens of architectures as long as I’ve known about it, and many of those other architectures have significant power savings over Intel.
    I’ll believe “no strings” attached when I see it, and I’ll be quite amazed when M$ actually certifies free software and any “coordinated” support is more than an attack vector. My point is that free software should not need verification which borders on a stamp of approval. A “designed for Windows 2008″ stamp on the outside of a RHEL box would rightly be seen as a mark of subjugation. This deal comes dangerously close to that by endorsing a big M$ lie. Reasonable standards are the thing that make systems work together and that’s all M$ needs if they are serious about cooperating with anyone. “Cross licensing” and other deals like this are all about excluding competition and are the root of all non free computing ills. The best thing to do with Windows is avoid it.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 18, 2009 at 11:42 am


    This too is true. Any dependence Red Hat develops upon Microsoft is unhealthy because it offers Microsoft some degree of leverage.

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