SAP, Intel, and Novell team up for ERP appliance: What's the end game?

Is there a sinister anti-Linux end game behind SAP's Linux-based ERP appliance?

Tech Culture

SAP announced today its ERP-in-a-box solution, based on Novell's SUSE Linux and Intel processors. It sounds like a cool solution (though why this would be more appealing than SAP's SaaS offering, I don't know). It's yet another proof point that SAP and the global ERP vendors see the SME market as the future...which is right where open source offerings like Openbravo and Compiere compete best.

Through the optimization work it did with Intel and the right combination of software, including SUSE Linux, SAP aims to provide customers with a 45% savings on implementation and a 25% savings on total cost of ownership over what they'd typically spend for a comparable hardware/software combo, said Jans Peter Klaey, president of global SME at SAP, in an interview.

One interesting (and hitherto unasked) question is why SAP would have done this deal with the distant second-place Linux distribution, SUSE, instead of with Linux frontrunner, Red Hat?

I think the answer has much to do with cultural affinity for SUSE. SUSE started out as a German-developed Linux distribution and still has widespread support throughout Germany. (As just one data point, Germany is the only country where Alfresco's open-source content collaboration server runs primarily on SUSE instead of Red Hat.)

But there might be another reason, though one that is probably more conspiratorial than real. SAP is a close partner with Microsoft, both of which despise Oracle (which returns the favor 100X :-).

So imagine this conversation between SAP and Microsoft:

Microsoft: We sure do hate Linux, especially the growing traction and momentum behind it.
SAP: We love you.
Microsoft: If you love me, do this cute "ERP-in-a-box" (and any Linux-related stuff) with the Linux distribution over which we have a bit of a stranglehold. Remember SUSE?
Intel (piping in): We love you both. We will do whatever you want us to do. We aim to serve!

Far-fetched? Maybe. Maybe not. If I'm Microsoft, the only prominent Linux distribution I want any of my friends touching is SUSE, given that Ubuntu or Red Hat are a clear and present danger to Microsoft's Windows monopoly. Novell can't afford to hurt Microsoft (even if it had the ability to do so): its recent quarterly boosts absolutely depend on being fast friends with Microsoft.

If SAP truly wants to help the SME market, it will take more than a cute ERP-in-a-box. It will require helping to break Microsoft's monopolies in that market. Cozying up with Microsoft's Linux distribution won't help to do so. Pushing Microsoft to open up, as Red Hat, Ubuntu, the European Commission, and others have is the way to free up the market for itself and others.

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