Industry journals, websites and blogs have been humming with rumors about VMware acquiring the SUSE Linux business from Novell. While nothing solid has become public about this possible deal, it does offer an opportunity for interesting speculation. Here are some possible ramifications on a partner/competitor basis if VMware does acquire SUSE Linux. In general, it appears that the move towards vendors offering monolithic hardware/software/services environments is clearly returning.

  • CA – VMware and Novell are partners with CA. Little would change if VMware acquires SUSE Linux
  • HPVMware and Novell are partners with HP. HP works to certify its systems and software with both platforms.  Little would change if VMware acquires SUSE Linux.
  • IBMVMware and Novell are partners with IBM. IBM works to certify its systems and software with both platforms.  Little would change if VMware acquires SUSE Linux.
  • Microsoft – If VMware acquires SUSE Linux, Microsoft stands to see the most challenges. Microsoft is already competing with VMware with Hyper-V. That being said, VMware was a “safe” coopitition partner with Microsoft because it didn’t go after Microsoft foundation operating system and applications business. With the addition of SUSE Linux, VMware’s product portfolio would increasingly be competitive with Microsoft.   It is not at all clear how the Microsoft/Novell cross licensing agreements would stand up in this environment. I’d look for the relationship between Microsoft and VMware to become chilly at first and then escalated into a rather frosty relationship.
  • Oracle – Oracle is working hard to promote a unified stack that includes its own version of Xen and Linux on top of both X86 and SPARC platforms. It has just about declared war on many of its hardware and software “partners.” So, VMware acquiring SUSE wouldn’t change the dynamics of the market in any substantial way.
  • Red Hat – Red hat has begun promoting KVM as a VMware and Xen replacement.  VMware could be expected to start pushing SUSE as a replacement for Red Hat in its major accounts by offering reduced costs for those purchasing a VMware “package.”  Red Hat would, in all likelihood, would offer matching prices for similar packages that included Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and KVM. This warfare had begun previously, but is likely to escalate.

Historical ruminations from a computer archeologist

In the 1960s and 1970s, customers faced totally monolithic offerings from hardware suppliers. These offerings included operating systems, database managers, application development tools and applications themselves.

In the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the industry saw a disaggregation of company offerings into offerings from operating system suppliers, database and tools suppliers and application suppliers. Hardware suppliers worked with everyone in order to sell their systems. Customers began to complain about complexity and the inability to keep up with what all of their suppliers were doing. Suppliers had to be partners with just about everyone to do business.

Now we’re seeing a re-aggregation and major suppliers are going back to having their own systems, system software, databases, tools and applications. What happens next will depend entirely on how greedy and authoritarian suppliers become.

If the worst case scenario that is possible occurs, I’m expecting to hear cries for interoperability and cross platform migration that will be similar to the cries heard in the 1960s and 1970s.  Are we doomed to repeat this cycle over and over again?


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