That didn't take long …

The folks at /. have linked to an open letter to the OSS community from Novell. This impacts HPC in that much of HPC is done on Linux, a large and growing fraction if you look at Top500 and other measures.

Here is why I thought it was a good thing.

This agreement is at the heart of what IT users demand to deploy both Linux and Windows, and to have them work well together and many companies have spoken out in support of this new cooperation.

Yes. Exactly. Companies … no … customers want interoperability.
Moreover, they don’t really like it when their suppliers start suing each other, or them.

In this agreement, Novell and Microsoft each promise not to sue the other’s customers for patent infringement. The intended effect of this agreement was to give our joint customers peace of mind that they have the full support of the other company for their IT activities.

Yup. This is right. At the end of the day, the customers, the people who buy stuff, want us to work together, and work well together, and play well together. Not pull an SCO, meaning, don’t do something really dumb like sue over contrived slights.
Yet, sadly, the CEO of Microsoft had, well, a slightly different interpretation.

Linux comes from the community — the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders.


And we agreed on a, we call it an IP bridge, essentially an arrangement under which they pay us some money for the right to tell the customer that anybody who uses Suse Linux is appropriately covered. There will be no patent issues. They’ve appropriately compensated Microsoft for our intellectual property, which is important to us. In a sense you could say anybody who has got Linux in their data center today sort of has an undisclosed balance sheet liability, because it’s not just Microsoft patents.

After hammering out an agreement, it sure sounds like they aren’t talking about the same thing. Sounds like one of them is talking about agreeing not to sue others and work on interop, and the other is putting FUD out there.
One says …

We disagree with the recent statements made by Microsoft on the topic of Linux and patents. Importantly, our agreement with Microsoft is in no way an acknowledgment that Linux infringes upon any Microsoft intellectual property. When we entered the patent cooperation agreement with Microsoft, Novell did not agree or admit that Linux or any other Novell offering violates Microsoft patents.

and the other says …

“What we agreed, which is true, is we’ll continue to try to grow Windows share at the expense of Linux. That’s kind of our job. But to the degree that people are going to deploy Linux, we want Suse Linux to have the highest percent share of that, because only a customer who has Suse Linux actually has paid properly for the use of intellectual property from Microsoft.

There is a message here … well … no, two messages here.
First: Novell agreed to something it thought was pretty reasonable, and it was construed or played and reported quite differently than they had interpreted it. Which means either Novell’s lawyers and execs are clueless, they were played, or they failed to consider the potential interpretations and ramifications of the deal and how people would react. Including the party they made the deal with. Which means that their marketing group was really clueless.
Second: Microsoft is executing tactics against its strategic aims of ridding the world of the scourge of FOSS OSes and applications. Its execs appear to be willing to make deals, not what the people who they make deals with them believe they mean, and then spin them any which way they see fit. And they do so at the expense of the “partner” they did “business” with.
Sounds like we need a new acronym to describe this behavior. How about PINO … Partner In Name Only.
So while one company thinks it is doing good things to build bridges and enable their customers to do better things (assuming we are not being fed a line), another is licking their lips over the crushing patent blow they are about to launch.
So which of these two organizations do you feel comfortable doing business with?
Ok, back to HPC. Now Microsoft goes on a patent* buying spree. Suddenly it starts asserting its new found ownership rights.
The rest is, as they say, history.
* I have nothing against patents. I think they are a good thing, especially for small companies.

1 thought on “That didn't take long …”

  1. Let’s face it, Novell’s marketing has ALWAYS been clueless. I’ve always been a big fan of Novell’s technology, but to go from first to worst in the server space over just a few years in the mid-90’s proves their ineptitude at selling – and they really haven’t gotten much better since. It’s no surprise they misjudged both who they were dealing with, and what the community reaction would be.
    Another thing we need to accept: NOBODY has better lawyers than Microsoft. That’s been their strategic advantage all along, it’s never been their technology. Think about how many cases they’ve won that have been pivotal and changed the computing industry completely: vs IBM over DOS, vs Apple over the windowed-gui, vs the US GOVERNMENT(!) over ‘bundling’ – what I like to call ‘illegal tying’. I can’t imagine anyone who could spin legal jargon better and get away with it, so Novell never had a chance.
    At the end of the day, I agree completely with where you started: Customers want indemnification because of Microsoft FUD, period. Novell gave it to them. It upsets the idealist Linux community, but customers will come, and I truly believe that Linux will benefit in the long run – as will Novell. They did learn one lesson from Microsoft… Upsetting the industry is sometimes necessary to win.

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