Dell has become the last of the four major server sellers to fully support Novell's SuSE Linux, announcing Wednesday a partnership that puts low prices front and center.
As expected, the Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker elevated Novell, the second-ranked Linux seller, to the status of market leader Red Hat. Customers will be able to buy SuSE Linux Enterprise Server on Dell's dual-processor servers the same way they buy Red Hat Linux, Microsoft Windows or Novell NetWare.
The joint product "will be at the lowest price in the industry—that's for any Linux offering today," said Linda York, vice president of global alliances at Dell. The SuSE Linux license, including full technical support, will cost $175 per year for a single-processor server or $269 per year for a dual-processor server, York said.
By contrast, a one-year subscription for Red Hat Enterprise Linux costs $349 per server, whether single-processor or dual-processor.
Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems already fully support SuSE Linux on their servers.
The deal is a partnership of geographical convenience, said Brooks Gray, an analyst at Technology Business Research. It helps Dell in Europe, where SuSE is more widely used, and helps SuSE in North America, where Dell is strong.
"Frankly, it will be more beneficial for Dell over in Europe. My belief is Dell will continue to predominantly sell Red Hat in the United States," Gray said.
Novell still has aspirations. "We're very excited as to Dell's overall reach in North America and around the globe," said Ronald Hovsepian, president of Novell North America.
Previously, SuSE Linux was available as a custom option on Dell servers. The new pact elevates the operating system to the level of Red Hat, York said. "We do see SuSE Linux in the same category as Red Hat in every way, including service and support," she said.
However, there is one major difference right now: Red Hat Linux is available on Dell's four-processor servers, an option Dell is only evaluating with SuSE Linux.
Another difference is that Red Hat Linux, like Microsoft Windows, can be installed in the factory. Dell will do this with SuSE Linux only after it has been sold with more than 1 percent of Dell's servers, the computer maker said.
Although some customers are expected to switch from Windows or Red Hat Linux to SuSE, the vast majority of interest in SuSE is for Unix set-ups or for new installations, York said.
Some of the groundwork for the alliance has already been laid out. In 2003, Dell and Novell started working together to ensure that their products worked well for mutual customers. In January 2004, Dell and Novell signed a joint support agreement.
In addition, Dell has long sold Novell's other operating system, NetWare, which, until the mid-1990s, dominated the market for servers with Intel processors. In February, Novell will begin to automatically include a copy of SuSE Linux with NetWare in a combined product called Open Enterprise Server.
Open Enterprise Server was originally set to ship by the end of 2004, but the launch date was pushed back two months so that it could use Service Pack 1 of SuSE Enterprise Server 9, due in January, Novell spokesman Bruce Lowry said.
Open Enterprise Server will also include the new version 7 of NetWare.