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Open Source Initiative President Requests a “No” to Microvell

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, OSI, Red Hat, Servers at 8:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

And LinuxToday Managing Editor calls Novell “little better than a branch of Microsoft”

TUESDAY brought an important press release from Novell — one that was a direct attack on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and its clone/s. The key points to take from prior posts about this subject [1, 2, 3] are:

  1. Novell helps Microsoft more than it helps GNU/Linux
  2. Novell is just about as unethical as Oracle

This subject is now being discussed in a variety of Web sites. As readers may be aware, Novell’s launch of an anti-Red Hat program generally puts trust in greater jeopardy. It stifles cooperation between Linux vendors. To quote Steve Stites:

One thing that the article does not talk about is Microsoft’s reasons for helping Novell try to win customers from Red Hat. I think that Microsoft’s main reason is to try to pressure Red Hat into signing a disadvantageous software patent agreement with Microsoft.

So far Microsoft’s attack on Red Hat seems to be bearing insignificant results. Red Hat is doing great financially and shows no fear of Microsoft’s software patent attack.

Novell poses a danger now, so Michael Tiemann (OSI President) has replied to Steve:

Tell Microsoft/Novell “no!” and reward Red Hat’s good behavior with continued business. I think it’s pretty obvious to say that the more strongly you vote your values by buying from Red Hat, the faster we can change the status quo in the software marketplace.

The OSI linked to Boycott Novell in the past and so have other notable Web sites, including the front page of OpenOffice.org. To suggest that there is no resentment of the Novell deal is to pretend that people don’t reserve their judgment because of their employer, which might frown upon unnecessary (even spurious) controversy.

Sincerely speaking, I wish OpenSUSE people realised what type of company watches over their shoulder. The theory from Steve Stites says that Microsoft hopes to pressure Red Hat — using Novell — until Red Hat sells out too (never mind the GPLv3). In response to this, said Steve Stites:

Another facet of the same problem is that the rest of open source can no longer trust Novell coders. Are Novell employees producing code to advance open source or to advance the Microsoft-Novell attack on open source?

Also mind this opinion.

There is nothing wrong with “voting with your wallet.” I liked and supported SuSe until the secret patent agreement between Microsoft and Novell. (Since then we no longer use Novell products.)
People forget that a corporation is basically a “fake individual” – It is time that we held our corporations to the same standards that we hold our citizens.

Glyn Moody, a well-known Linux journalists, protests against it also. He covered the latest development under the headline “Novell’s Faustian Pact.”

But many see Novell’s actions as offering succour to an avowed enemy of free software (ignore friendly noises emanating from some middle managers of the company, and pay attention to what its boss says and does).

This seems to be directly harmful to the larger commons that Novell depends upon, notably in terms of strengthening Microsoft FUD about alleged (but always unspecified) infringements of its intellectual monopolies by open source code.

Does anyone still give Novell the benefit of the doubt?

Last night, Sam Varghese published an article accusing Novell of cannibalising the Linux market.

Earlier this year, there was evidence that things were not exactly rosy at Novell, with Microsoft deciding to invest an additional $100 million for the purchase of certificates which customers could redeem for SUSE Linux service and support.

Back to the announcement ; some of the prose employed tells its own tale. Justin Steinman, vice-president of Solution and Product Marketing at Novell, is quoted as saying: “As the Linux market matures, we are increasingly being approached by customers who want to move to SUSE Linux Enterprise, attracted by Novell’s award-winning support, superb interoperability in mixed-source environments, and by our support for mission critical applications.”

The Linux market matured a long time back and if one has to cite awards to justify one’s competence in the field of operating systems, then one is really beginning to clutch at straws.

And as to mission critical applications, is he trying to say that Red Hat does not offer equal – and, in my opinion, better – support?

Red Hat has wisely chosen to stay mum. I am sure that the people at the top knew quite well what kind of reaction this Novell marketing manoeuvre would bring forth.

What’s next, Novell? Lehman Brothers share certificates for those who buy SUSE Linux?

As always, Carla Schroder is a little more gentle. In particular, she defends the OpenSUSE community:

Novell– meh. Once upon a time they were a determined, though unfortunately incompetent competitor to Microsoft. They had a network OS that supported pretty much anything you could throw into it, with all of the identity management and resource management and interoperability you could want. Now they’re little better than a branch of Microsoft. It’s a good thing the openSUSE project is slowly becoming more independent, because SUSE is worth salvaging.

Got that? The Managing Editor of LinuxToday calls Novell “little better than a branch of Microsoft.”


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  1. pcolon said,

    November 14, 2008 at 11:08 pm


    I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much justification and so much spin from people in supporting unethical business behavior. From excusing a convicted, in the US and in EU, a monopoly, who has yet to atone for any wrong doing.

    Now they’re making excuses for a leech of a company that attached itself to a publicly stated enemy of GNU/Linux & FOSS.

    Saying, “All’s fair in business.” & “That’s normal in being competitive.” by stealing someone else clients, especially when your sharing code from the same pool, is very puzzling. If that’s what capitalism has turned to, you can keep it. I can survive without having to be a thief and a liar.

  2. Michael Tiemann said,

    November 15, 2008 at 1:40 pm



    Please note that I do wear multiple hats: a Red Hat hat and an OSI hat. Also lease note that while it is true that I am President of the OSI, I posted my comment about the Microsoft/Novell deal using my Red Hat identity. I don’t want to give the impression that the OSI is making a pro-Red Hat recommendation to the detriment of all other open source vendors who might in some way be competing for share of wallet or share of mind.

    That being said, it is also true that I have linked to BoycottNovell in the past, because it has made particularly cogent arguments that illuminate Open Source software and values. And since one of my jobs as OSI President is open source advocacy and education, I’m happy to link to explanations that are as good or better than ones I’ve come up with.

    But please understand that the OSI does not take a partisan position for some companies and against others. When posting for the OSI, I do my best to talk about *behaviors*, not corpororate identities. When a particular company commits an egregious behavior with respect to open source, I try to focus on the behavior, not the company per se.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    November 15, 2008 at 3:45 pm



    Thanks, I tried to be careful in the way I phrased it. I understand that the situation is more complicated than it seems. I can only imagine how peculiar it is for Red Hat engineers to share code with Novell at this stage. The same goes for Sun, which collaborates (shall I already say “collaborated”?) with Novell… which in turn collaborates with fierce competitors of Red Hat and Sun.

    Let’s try to get along. Novell was given many opportunities, but each 3 months or so it does something selfish and damaging (at a macro scale). The only chance for change, in my humble opinion, is change in management, but as I’ve seen and shown over the years, it only gets worse as times goes by. The same goes for the tier of engineers, which loses its staff that respects Free software. They become assimilated through staff changes (Google is a similar story).

    Michael, keep on eye on the news in the coming week. I believe that in due time more people will realise that Novell is too difficult to trust. Like a cornered animal, it would do anything bar violation of the law. It’s sad to me because I used to be a SUSE fan (my first distribution was Red Hat though).

    I doubt Novell can split itself to resolve this. I hope OpenSUSE forks. Someone should.

  4. Zenwalker said,

    November 15, 2008 at 11:33 pm


    Well when you cant trust M$ any more, then its pretty clear that Novell isnt worth to be trusted.

    I hate novell….

    RedHat is doing great job towards Open Source. Thanks alot for all of you there. I wish RedHat grows much more than what its goal is. And take Open Source to the same extend.

  5. zeke said,

    November 16, 2008 at 6:34 pm


    Wait, that was Tienman who wrote that?
    Color me surprised.

    As for Novell, nothing they do surprises me.

    I used to use OpenSuse and Suse just like any other distro and you know what has happened since I took them out of my distro rotation (Xandros and Linspire were never an option or interesting)? Nothing. There is still more distros coming out every 6 months than I know what to do with.

  6. Michael Tiemann said,

    November 16, 2008 at 7:59 pm



    What is it that surprises you about what I wrote? That I would criticize Novell while wearing my Red Hat hat? Or that I would not (in this instance) while wearing my OSI hat?

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    November 16, 2008 at 8:15 pm


    I wondered the same thing.

    In general, I don’t consider myself biased in anyone’s favour. On many occasions I’ve criticised IBM, Google, Sun, Canonical, the Linux Foundation, OSI and even Red Hat, but it’s based on deeds. I was a Novell fan before deal and I still sympathise with the company sometimes. There is no black and white.

    What Novell does to Red Hat at the moment demonstrates a huge failure of commerce, which is neither ethical nor regulated. Sure, we could live on saying “that’s the system, these are the rules,” but why not fix them? Because the wealthy corporations have lobbyists that ensure servitude to the shareholders’ agenda at the neglect of everything else? Did we learn nothing from the current collapse of the economies, which was caused by deregulation and corruption?

    I fear that American business has lost track of its original role (much like the USPTO) as the value of bucks completely outpaced the value of technical work. Even marketing and propaganda seem to trump technical work now.

    Red Hat still has good karma. It’s embarrassing to see how companies forget the value of public views and how the public often fails to reward companies with good karma, using the wallet.

    An old song says, “nice guys finish last.” It’s time to at least try to change that.

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