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Last week, in a deal similar to bank enticements that target new checking account customers, Waltham, Mass.-based Novell offered existing Red Hat customers two years of Red Hat support and updates with every three-year premium SUSE Linux Enterprise subscription, at no extra charge. The total cost is $3,748 per server, compared with $3,507 for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and $6,747 for RHEL's Advanced Platform including clusters and virtualization.
By supporting both platforms, Novell prevents customers from having to extend their existing Red Hat subscriptions during the transition to Novell and avoids a protection gap during the platform migration, which typically is done over a period of time. Red Hat customers, however, will lose the remaining value of their canceled Red Hat subscriptions.From RHEL to SUSE Linux? No way!
But, for a variety of reasons that include from the troubled economy to the effort involved in switching platforms, Red Hat customers we contacted said they were unlikely to take the bait.
The most interested of the four was Mark St. Onge. As an enterprise systems architect at India-based HCL Technologies, St. Onge is evaluating SUSE for a large Massachusetts company with a large Red Hat installation. St. Onge said Novell's promotion incentive was "huge." and its product roadmap is "great." But his client faces layoffs and would be unlikely to spend the money to make a change in the current fiscal climate, St. Onge said.
Drew Stinnett, a systems administrator with Morrisville, N.C.-basedPharmaceutical Product Development Inc., works in a mixed Red Hat and Windows environment. Stinnett said that the SUSE promotion is "good for the market" but "would be a lot of work and cost for not much reward in the long run."
"With all the infrastructure and package management in place, it would take a whole lot more than pricing to get us to switch over to SUSE," he said.
Paul Dyer, a Linux systems administrator at Compliance Technology Group, a Kenner, La.-based oil-field IT service provider, wouldn't switch from Red Hat either.
"I'm very happy with Red Hat," he said. "When I call up, I get really good service. Why shop around?"
A fourth Red Hat customer with a large RHEL installation was almost scornful of the offer.
"For the enterprise, SUSE would more than likely have to restate the same offer at a greatly reduced price to be even close to competitive," said the senior IT manager, who is not authorized to speak in an official capacity. "Subsidizing your own software in order to get others to use it is sort of a bald-face admission to the world that no one wanted to use it in the first place."Just formalizing the informal?
Justin Steinman, Novell's vice president of solution and product marketing, said the new program was created in response to growing customer demand and simply formalizes what Novell has offered on a case-by-case basis for a number of years.
"We continue to see SUSE take more and more market share and more customers have asked for help," Steinman said, without offering growth estimates for 2008. SUSE's interoperability with Microsoft Windows and its status as a preferred Linux partner with SAP may factor into customers' decisions to move to SUSE as Linux has progressed from the edge of the network to more mission-critical functions, he said.
Steinman said Novell expects "a lot more customers" as a result of the campaign, which will extend for "a long period of time," he said.
Richard Jones, the vice president and service director of Data Center Strategies at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group said he has talked to numerous large companies with mixed Linux and Windows shops that – for interoperability and support reasons -- are interested in migrating from Red Hat to SUSE. Large companies typically make platform decisions based on objective, financial reasons, in contrast to small and medium-sized companies that have strong emotional loyalties to one platform or the other, Jones said. Smaller firms are also reluctant to change operating systems because the risk of altering the infrastructure is too great, he said.
But Jones said he didn't think the offer was much different from the transition assistance offered when he was a SUSE product marketing manager for Novell two years ago. The only significant change appears to be the offer of Red Hat patches, which new SUSE customers could get anyway if they also subscribed to Novell's Zenworks management program, he said.
"This is a very nice move for customers that Novell is already courting," but is unlikely to be a major motivating factor, Jones said.
Red Hat declined to comment for this story.