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Dell To Offer SUSE on Servers - InternetNews.
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Dell To Offer SUSE on Servers

Dell officials announced Wednesday an agreement with Linux distributor Novell to distribute and support SUSE Enterprise Server 9 on its single- and dual-processor line of servers.

The deal marks an expansion of the popular computer manufacturer's server market strategy and a departure from its exclusivity with Red Hat as a Linux solution. For Novell, the agreement gives them greater access to the North American enterprise markets, as well as more acceptance by software developers.

"They're coming from behind; Red Hat has by far the preponderant market share, and if Dell puts its weight behind support of SUSE Linux, it may also influence ISVs in terms of considering SUSE Linux as a second or alternative port for their applications," said George Weiss, vice president and research lead for Gartner Group's server group.

Weiss said that while he doesn't have definitive numbers on SUSE vs. Red Hat market share in the United States, he estimates Red Hat's roughly 80 percent market share will be slowly winnowed down in coming years to 60 percent or so with greater adoption to other commercial Linux distributions. He doesn't count Red Hat out of the game just yet, pointing out the company has tremendous allegiance with Linux-based ISVs.

Pete Morowski, Dell vice president of software, said the SUSE arrangement doesn't mean a strain on its relationship with Red Hat -- which also provides server software for the PowerEdge line -- but recognition of customer demand.

"We're continually driven by what customers are asking for, so if you look at the Linux market, clearly SUSE has a strong position in that marketplace," he said. "We've had a very long-standing relationship with Novell, so we look at this primarily as an extension of our relationship with Novell. Our relationship with Red Hat continues to be strong as ever and we will continue to offer Red Hat."

As part of the deal, Dell will be the primary point of contact for all PowerEdge/SUSE support. Pricing on the annual maintenance subscription plan is $175 per single-CPU server and $269 on dual-processor machines.

Dell will offer SUSE Enterprise Server 9 as part of its PowerEdge package on the affected models -- 1850, the single-processor rack server at $999; 2800, its dual-processor tower server priced at $1,599; and 2850, the dual-processor 2U rack server at $1,499. At press time, SUSE Linux wasn't listed on the Dell Web pages of the three models.

The agreement doesn't include putting the SUSE operating system pre-installed on Dell servers. According to officials, customer preference is for "drop-in-the-box" OS shipments rather than pre-installed machines. The company will continue to fill out custom factory orders that way unless enough customers ask otherwise.

Regardless of whether SUSE comes pre-installed on Dell servers or not, the agreement expansion is good news for Novell, which bought the German-based Linux OS developer in November 2003 for $210 million.

With its headquarters and most of its enterprise customer base in Germany and the European Union, SUSE officials have been looking for a way to break into the North American markets to compete with Red Hat, which has strong enterprise support in the United States and Canada. Its acquisition by Novell was an important first step, but its new relationship with Dell opens doors to a wide variety of North American -- as well as worldwide -- businesses.

"Dell does not do anything unless there is demand; they're very cautious of how they launch products," said Stacey Quandt, a senior business analyst at the Robert Frances Group, a Westport, CT, based research firm. "[So] it demonstrates that SUSE is a viable alternative to Red Hat."

Weiss said Dell might have been a little behind its competition in putting more Linux options on the market, but it was to be expected, since the company likes to lock down its support and services channels, as well as see a demand, before making agreements.

Novell officials agree with that assessment, saying broad industry acceptance of its product line is important for the company's growth, as well as its continued competition with other operating systems.

"Novell is focused on reducing the barriers to adoption on Linux in the enterprise," said Ron Hovsepian, president of Novell North America, in a press conference. "Today's agreement with Dell is a big step in continuing the drive to reduce those barriers."