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New shift of an old business rivalry

Novell took aim at rival and Linux market leader Red Hat with a migration service designed to help move Linux users onto Novell's Suse enterprise servers.

The SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) Subscription with Expanded Support program is a three-year contract that covers support for Red Hat or CentOS, a Red Hat clone, during the first two years of the deal. (Read our latest Red Hat test.)

During that time, Novell will provide Red Hat and CentOS server users with binaries built from source code publicly released by Red Hat for its platform and technical support. The subscriptions, which include two years of transition support and three years SLES support, are similar to the three-year priority contracts Novell offers on its own servers. The price of the migration subscription is $3,748 per server.

“Part of what Novell is seeing here is they think they can go after some of these customers with the value proposition they can offer,” says Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC. “Frankly, they have made a lot of acquisitions to fill out their virtualization and virtualization management strategy. In fact, PlateSpin has been a really big one for them and arguably they have a good story to tell and they are sensing they can go and tell that story.”

The open source model lets Novell take the updates Red Hat issues for its own platform and re-package those for distribution. It is the same model CentOS uses to create its clone of the Red Hat platform.

In contrast, proprietary software vendors such as Microsoft do not allow third parties to redistribute the company's patches, such as the two released last Tuesday.

“We think this is a competitive replacement program,” says Justin Steinman, vice president of solution and product marketing. “I don't think Red Hat will be excited about this, and I wouldn't be surprised if they want to do their own version.”

Such replacement programs are fairly standard among vendors battling for similar sets of customers.

Novell's migration services will not include rewriting applications or tweaking other software that users might be running on top of Red Hat servers. Novell's partners will offer migration services to fill those needs and others related to moving workloads to SLES.

Novell has been informally offering the migration contracts as one-off contracts to customers moving to SLES. The migration subscriptions are available now.

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