A bunch of folks have commented on the recent posting on the GPL3 issue. Thanks for all these comments, pro and con. We know this issue is controversial, and we appreciate the open debate. I’d like to make a few points, based on the comments, and figured I’d do a new post, rather than a really long comment.
First, did we do this deal to promote SUSE Linux Enterprise? Sure. We’re a business and we’re competing in a tough market. This deal is helping to get Linux into areas where it wasn’t before – and that’s good for Linux in general. Every new SUSE deployment is a new Linux deployment. If you’re a Linux developer, isn’t your end goal to see the broadest possible adoption of Linux? Our deal with Microsoft is promoting the expansion of the Linux server base, and, by extension, it’s growing the Linux ecosystem, which means more opportunities to build open source applications for Linux. With more customers using Linux as a result of this deal, there is more feedback into the community about what customers want, which means the Linux operating system gets more functionality that can lead to even broader deployment. We get a virtuous circle.
Second, did we do this to compete with Red Hat? Sure – we’re a business. If we’re going to continue to pay engineers to develop open source code, then we need to grow our revenue. And what we heard from customers was that one way to really differentiate SUSE Linux Enterprise from Red Hat – in a way that matters to customers – was to improve Windows interoperability with Linux. The unfortunate reality is that as much as I – and every other Novell employee – would love to see a world full of 100% Linux-based data centers, that’s just not going to happen any time soon. Almost every data center will have Windows in it. And we believe that every data center will have Linux in it as well. So we figured that, if we could take SUSE Linux Enterprise and make it work better with Windows, then we could provide customers with a reason to choose SUSE Linux Enterprise over Red Hat.
It got really interesting when we added virtualization to the mix. As more customers add virtualization to their environments, they told us that they wanted the flexibility to run Windows virtualized on Linux or Linux virtualized on Windows, but they were concerned about the performance implications. Through our partnership with Microsoft, we’re addressing those performance challenges, and again providing another reason for customers to choose SUSE over Red Hat. We believe we’re already got Red Hat beat on the technical strength of our distribution, the sophistication of our management services, and our award-winning technical support. With Microsoft, we’ve added Windows interoperability to the mix.
Third, we don’t see intellectual property, in general, as big impediment to Linux adoption. That’s been our position for a number of years now. Go back and look at statements we made during the SCO debate, or when we launched our indemnification program. We’ve consistently argued that customers should not avoid Linux because of intellectual property concerns. At the same time, we’ve provided a level of comfort (via indemnification, our patent policy and, now, with the Microsoft agreement) to those customers who do have concerns about the issue. We certainly aren’t out in the market telling customers to use our Linux because it has patent protection from Microsoft. We’re out there telling them to use SUSE Linux Enterprise because it’s a strong distribution that will integrate well into their mixed environments. If the patent agreement with Microsoft means a few more customers than before are willing to take the plunge with Linux, that’s a good thing. But we don’t think patent concerns are driving Linux adoption one way or the other. The deal with Microsoft simply removes the issue from the table for customers.