If you have not yet ventured into the Linux market but are considering it, and have no pressure from existing customers to push you in one direction, you have the luxury of approaching the choice with an open mind. For you, there's a real strategic choice to be made. Both Novell and Red Hat offer plenty to the dealer channel. While Novell may have more strategic partnerships with top vendors and a better way of working with its channel partners, Red Hat has a bigger installed base and is the overall market share leader, so its channel program can't be ignored. Because there are so many customers using Red Hat, an open source channel provider that doesn't belong to Red Hat's program is missing out on a significant portion of potential business. But Novell customers do exist, and if you are more interested in sales support, customer leads and vendor commitment than market share, Novell might make more sense for you.
If, on the other hand, your existing customers have already made a commitment to Linux or have made a decision on their own as to which Linux distribution they like best, your choice will be guided more by their needs and wants. In that case, you'll need to consider, for example, what they're asking for and what their existing infrastructure is like. Have they had prior relationships with Novell? Are they a global company? If your customers tend to follow the crowd, they are likely to prefer Red Hat. If your customer is a global company that has had relationships with Novell (remember NetWare?) and/or SUSE prior to Novell's purchase, it may prefer Novell. By examining your customer base, you can determine which Linux partner program is more likely to perform well with customers.
This was first published in October 2007