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Novell Battle With Red Hat Hots Up - New Tactics Revealed

The war of words between Novell and its biggest commercial rival Red Hat has reached a new peak after the former accused the latter of failing to release important code to the community.

Novell's Michael Applebaum told thinq_ that Red Hat had become "a little defensive" about poaching customers, a move which he said was all about customer demand.

"We had a number of customer who were in the process of migrating their systems over from Red Hat to SUSE Linux Enterprise," Applebaum explained, "and they don't do that overnight. They have a migration plan, and that may ask for a period of two or three years, and they wanted the ability to move fully to Novell as their supplier of software code as well as for the core system - to have a period of time over which they could make that migration."

That demand led to Novell offering full Red Hat Linux support, giving customers who had chosen to make the move to Novell the option to sever their contracts with Red Hat immediately - and yet still receive technical support and product updates until their migration to Novell's SUSE Linux was complete.

While that might seem to be underhanded tactics to some, Applebaum claims that Red Hat gets up to far worse itself. "If you look at some of their rather strong-arm sales tactics that they're encouraging their channel partners to conduct - I have a link in my blog to the Red Hat Partner Newsletter where they are directing their channel partners to force customers to either renew their Red Hat subscriptions or to de-install the Red Hat software from their systems, which, as far as I'm aware, is not exactly condoned by the GPL," he told thinq_ during the interview. "So, I see them really responding in some not very customer friendly ways to the competitive pressures in the environment today."

Applebaum denied that Novell has any immediate plans to turn its gaze onto other commercial Linux distributions. "We're going to continue to be responsive to what customers are asking for - by the time we got to 2009 we had heard a groundswell of requests for Red Hat support side-by-side with SUSE Linux Enterprise, so we responded to that," he explained. "We don't have plans to support any other commercial Linux distributions, but the philosophy is that we're going to listen to our customers and they're going to guide us on where we need to go."

Novell's next big market, Applebaum revealed, is cloud computing - specifically, offering system administrators the ability to centrally manage systems whether they're physical, virtual, or cloud-based, something Novell is, he claims, uniquely positioned to offer. "We see capabilities like workload and image building as being essential elements enabling the option of cloud computing for our customers who want to be able to manage cloud computing environments as an extension of their existing environments," he explained.