Novell's agreement to acquire SuSE Linux for $210m is good news for the Linux community and shows that the firm is unconcerned about the fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding Linux following SCO Group's legal action against IBM.
And IBM's investment of $50m in Novell as part of the deal has meant that the distribution and support gap which SCO left in the United Linux consortium has been plugged.
"This really is very, very good news for Linux," Gary Barnett, principal analyst at Ovum, told vnunet.com. "It's a very important move and will change the landscape of the world of Linux."
Reasons he gave included SuSE leapfrogging Red Hat in its ability to offer global support, and the huge but diminishing Novell NetWare user base which now has a migration path to Linux.
Novell chairman Jack Messman confirmed that the Linux acquisition was partly a response to customer demand for open standards-based computing, something lacking in NetWare.
"This means that an enterprise can have a Linux strategy that takes it into the core, into the data centre," he added.
"It is no longer on the periphery and gives users access to a growing number of applications with a lower total cost of ownership [TCO]."
Gartner analyst Andy Butler commented: "Novell has a totally integrated suite of products with NetWare at the bottom and a layer of products on top.
"It could substitute NetWare with Linux and offer a totally integrated stack. It's down to whether they offer the two [SuSE and NetWare] in parallel or substitute NetWare."
While some analysts dispute Messman's TCO claims, their arguments - such as the cost of trained staff and support - may be mitigated sooner rather than later.
Butler Group senior analyst Mike Davis saw IBM's investment as significant because the deal would diminish SCO's impact on Linux.
"SuSE became more vulnerable after SCO, which has worldwide offices, pulled out of United Linux," he explained.
"IBM has a great need to maintain viable and strong [Linux] distributions. So a bit of me says this is directly as a result of SCO's actions."
Barnett also felt that the deal showed SCO as no longer a threat. "Novell must have had its lawyers pore over the deal. It has plainly taken a judgement that SCO's case has no merit. SCO is toast," he declared.
Butler added: "Novell will have to convince the more evangelical elements of the Linux community that what it is doing with SuSE is nothing like what happened with Caldera. Novell has made its position clear that it is part of the anti-SCO lobby."
In August, Novell purchased server and desktop open source software provider Ximian and is preparing a Linux desktop based on Ximian's Gnome desktop. SuSE brings its Openexchange competitor to Microsoft Exchange into the Novell fold.
According to Chris Stone, vice chairman at Novell, the firm now has most of its long-planned product portfolio in place.
"The goal is to have a complete server-to-desktop implementation. With this acquisition we're almost there," he said.
Investors gave the deal the thumbs-up with shares in Novell having risen 18 per cent on the Nasdaq exchange by close of trading Wednesday.
Additional reporting by Rob Jones and Ian Lynch.
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