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Wal-Mart Subscribes to Microsoft-Novell

UPDATED: The world's largest retailer is all for the recent Microsoft-Novell deal, which provides for interoperability for Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and Microsoft Windows.

Wal-Mart will receive a number of subscription certificates for SLES from Microsoft. Though financial terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed, Susan Hauser, Microsoft general manager of customer advocacy, told internetnews.com that both companies will grow their revenue as the result of this agreement.

Neither Novell nor Microsoft would disclose how many certificates Wal-Mart will get. But since the Nov. 2 deal, more than 35,000 of the 70,000 SLES certificates, the value of which has been pegged at $240 million, have been activated.

The genesis of the deal with Wal-Mart goes right back to the Nov. 2 announcement of the Novell-Microsoft deal. Hauser said that, as part of the process, Microsoft reached out to its big customers. At the same time Wal-Mart was already calling its account team at Microsoft and asking them to come in and tell them about it.

"There was immediate interest on the Wal-Mart side," Hauser added. "We started the discussion directly with Wal-Mart's CIO and his direct report team and really walked them through the benefits of the Novell-Microsoft agreement."

According to Hauser, Wal-Mart had two main interests: IP assurance and technical collaboration.

"Wal-Mart is a good customer of Microsoft but they run a heterogeneous environment and they will continue to be heterogeneous," Hauser said.

The Wal-Mart move may well displace its existing Linux vendor Red Hat. As Red Hat demonstrates growth around the world and across industries, the competitive landscape continues to be lively.

"We expect to compete," said Leigh Day, director of global corporate communications for Red Hat. "Customers should be wary of solutions that might seem attractive near term, but have questionable long-term prospects."

"Certainly there were a number of discussions with Wal-Mart about why Novell chose SUSE versus Red Hat," Hauser said. "It was really clear that the differentiator there was the IP assurance and the fact that we have the technical collaboration with Novell."

Though the deal with Wal-Mart was just formally announced today, Susan Heystee vice president of Global Strategic Alliances at Novell, said that the project within Wal-Mart has already kicked off and is already moving very quickly.

It is not entirely clear at this point where the Novell SUSE servers will sit, but Heystee noted that Wal-Mart, Novell and Microsoft have already identified a number of areas.

One thing is definite. Novell SUSE will not be displacing any Windows installations. Microsoft's Hauser noted that if anything, Windows will only grow within the Wal-Mart environment.

Though the Microsoft Novell deal has come under fire from open source circles, both Novell's Heystee and Microsoft's Hauser said that, to date, the agreement has gone better than originally expected or planned.

"From our perspective we've had some good conversations with a number of customers globally and we're seeing strong interest and good momentum," said Heystee.



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