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Novell and Red Hat snuggle up to Big Blue

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IBM has strengthened in links with the two top corporate Linux distributions - Red Hat and Novell SUSE - by elevating the pair to IBM's Strategic Alliance program, its highest tier partner status. The move is designed to make it easier for firms to acquire Linux-based systems by integrating and streamlined sales, distribution and service channels between the hardware vendor (IBM) and its two principal open source software partners, Red Hat and Novell.

Elevated status in IBM's firmament also means Novell and Red Hat get increased access to IBM Innovation Centres, including those in emerging countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China and Korea, giving the two Linux distros new sales channels in rapidly developing markets. The deal comes with new subscription models for IBM to resell both Novell and Red Hat products and services alongside its own offerings to customers in key vertical markets such as government, retail, health care and financial services, as well as emerging global markets.

In return, Novell and Red Hat have pledged to support IBM-backed platforms including the Java-based Apache Geronimo web server and Apache Derby database, along with lending their backing to the Eclipse development platform.

Novell has agreed to distribute the Apache Geronimo open source J2EE application server as part of its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server distribution starting next year. Novell already includes the Apache Derby database in SUSE Linux 10.0. Red Hat will work with IBM to certify IBM's version of Geronimo application server - WebSphere Community Edition. Red Hat will also support IBM's efforts to promote Apache Geronimo, a Java-based relational database IBM donated to the open source community in August 2004.

IBM described the announcement as the "most significant elevation of IBM's strategic partnerships with its key Linux distribution partners since it embraced Linux six years ago", and testament to its continued support of open source technologies. According to analyst firm IDC, the overall Linux marketplace is growing annually at 26 percent and is expected to reach $35.7bn by 2008. Gartner reckons IBM enjoys a 29.7 per cent share in Linux-based server revenues, placing it ahead of its competitors. IBM Business Partners contribute over one third of IBM's Linux revenue, a figure IBM hopes will increase thanks to closer ties with Novell and Red Hat. ®

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