Wal-Mart eyes Microsoft for Web build-out

Wal-Mart CTO Nancy Stewart says Microsoft's Novell partnership important to long-term plans.

Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores is contracting with Microsoft and Novell--Microsoft's preferred Linux partner--to build out the company's Web operations, according to a Wal-Mart executive.

On Tuesday, Microsoft and Novell are expected to announce that Wal-Mart is the latest customer to purchase both Microsoft software and support certificates for Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server.

In an interview arranged by both companies, Wal-Mart's senior vice president and chief technology officer, Nancy Stewart, provided some details on the project involving Wal-Mart, Microsoft and Novell.

Stewart said Wal-Mart is in the midst of expanding its Web presence globally. The partnership between Microsoft and Novell, announced last November, provides "a fine support structure" for the project, she said.

Wal-Mart, currently a Red Hat Linux customer, intends to use Windows Server and Suse Linux Enterprise Server in the expansion, she said.

"That's our direction. That's where we're going, but if we hit a roadblock and we can't go forward, it's up to Microsoft and Novell to figure out what to do about it," she said.

With the partnership, Microsoft is seeking to make Novell its preferred Linux provider and to have both companies' products work well together. Microsoft offers coupons for Suse Enterprise Linux support services as well as legal indemnification for customers who use both Microsoft and Novell's Linux, which is open-source.

Wal-Mart, a global retailing giant with $315 billion in annual revenue, is already a Microsoft customer, and Stewart said the multiyear relationship has been "outstanding."

She said the intellectual property protections in the Novell deal give Wal-Mart more confidence in using Linux more broadly.

Questions over intellectual property are a "huge problem," Stewart said. The company now uses Linux in the data center of its current Web presence but had some trepidation with the idea of expanding it a much larger operation.

"To think about using it pervasively, we were very concerned about it," she said. The larger Web operation would have "significantly higher legal exposure."

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