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All of the hinting and whispers can cease now that Sun Microsystems and SuSE have entered into a public tech-swapping pact.

Sun has agreed to sell, ship and support SuSE Linux Entperise Server 8 on its Intel and AMD-based servers. SuSE will return the favor by becoming a Java source licensee and by distributing Sun's JVM (Java Virtual Machine).

Sun executives have long suggested they would sell SuSE alongside Red Hat for their x86 kit. What took so long to nail the deal down? We don't know.

Regardless, this is a nice win for SuSE. Thus far, HP and Dell have tended to back Red Hat with force largely ignoring the European Linux maker of choice. IBM, by contrast, has championed SuSE in public and supported Red Hat behind closed doors.

Sun is playing a bit of the middle ground here, as part of its confused Linux strategy. One month it has its own distro and is bashing Red Hat (even though Sun Linux was Red Hat with few adjustments). The next month Sun is Red Hat's good friend.

Red Hat is said to be at the heart of Sun's desktop Linux strategy as well, providing the core for the Mad Hatter client. It's unclear how Sun will offer up this distro to the public and what it will call it. All should be made clear at Linux World.

Sun seems to be taking Linux more seriously these days, as signing another distro partnership is not something one does on a whim. We hope.

Still, the company would be more than happy for customers to pick up Solaris x86 instead and keep the Unix train humming away. ®

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