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Novell builds bridges...from Red Hat to SUSE

Novell is introducing a new program to make it easier to leave Red Hat.

Even as Red Hat, Canonical, Novell, and other Linux vendors seek to differentiate their respective offerings, Novell wants to make it easy to overcome differences between Linux distributions...provided that customers want to migrate to Novell's SUSE® Linux Enterprise Server (SLES).

On Tuesday Novell announced a new Linux migration program - the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server Subscription with Expanded Support program - to make it easier to switch from Red Hat Enterprise Linux or CentOS to SLES. From the press release:

Many times, customers who want to move between platforms are constrained by factors such as IT resource limitations, application migration scheduling and training costs, which means they need time to make an orderly transition. In response to these challenges, Novell is providing technical support for a customer's existing Linux environment and is also delivering training and tools to ensure the transition to the SUSE Linux Enterprise platform is smooth and successful.

Intriguingly, the program also includes technical support for customers' existing Linux deployments for up to two years while they migrate to SUSE. Did Novell just get into the Oracle Unbreakable Linux Red Hat knock-off game?

No. The short-term support is designed to be just that: short term. Unlike Oracle, Novell is interested in converting Red Hat users to SUSE, not keeping them as Red Hat users but changing the logo on the box to its own.

I asked Justin Steinman, vice president of Solution and Product Marketing at Novell, for clarification on how it will staff its Red Hat support, in particular, and he made it clear that such support has long been a part of its business:

We're still ramping up our support team. The short answer is that our goal is to make it [RHEL support] indistinguishable from the end user perspective. Keep in mind that we've been doing this informally for a couple years now with a team of engineers inside our OPS [Open Platform Solutions] team. Today's announcement is just formalizing a program around something that has been done on a one-off basis for a couple years.

I continue to believe the real revenue opportunity for Novell (and Red Hat) is Unix replacements, not internecine competition between Linux vendors. Even so, this is an appropriate shot across Red Hat's bow and a great way of ensuring that the Linux market remains competitive.

It will be interesting to see how Red Hat responds and, even more interesting, how enterprises react.