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Novell signs major open source systems integrator

Novell and open source systems integrator Capgemini signed a deal under which the software vendor will help the SI develop its consulting practice for servers and desktops based on SUSE Enterprise Linux.

Novell Inc. unveiled an alliance with a major systems integrator earlier this month, announcing it had signed an agreement with Paris-based Capgemini under which the two companies will work together to develop mixed-source software packages, including desktop and server systems based on Novell's SUSE Enterprise Linux.

Although Capgemini already offers Linux-based services and works with SUSE, the deal brings the two companies closer and formalizes Novell's role in supporting Capgemini, said Didier Chaumont, open-source leader at Capgemini. The deal will give customers a one-stop shop for both open source and proprietary software running on Linux, Chaumont said.

Both companies said the partnership reflects the growing importance of open-source software in large corporations. The strength of open source among large companies is real but presents a misleading picture of the overall market, according to Raven Zachary, analyst with New York-based analyst firm The 451 Group. Large organizations have the resources to configure and develop open source applications; but for small and midsized businesses (SMBs), which often lack those resources, Software as a Service (SaaS) is a far more important development, he said.

The Novell-Capgemini partnership is essentially a standard systems integrator deal, but it is the first partnership Novell has made with a systems integrator of this size, said Justin Steinman, director of product marketing for Linux and open platform solutions at Novell.

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"Novell has not made much of a secret around the fact that we're moving toward an indirect sales model," Steinman said. "We are trying to sign up as many systems integrators as possible."

But he said that Novell is still planning on working with smaller open source systems integrators, including regional players and one-man shops.

Novell is "probably not going to consider" a formally tiered program between its large systems integrators and smaller partners, Steinman said, but he added that the needs and capabilities of a large practice like Capgemini's will naturally be different from those of a smaller integrator. Capgemini will get less help from Novell in generating leads, for instance, but more help in developing custom applications based on open source, Steinman said.

Novell's partnership with a company of Capgemini's size is sign that open-source adoption is growing in large companies, Zachary said. If that trend continues, he said, other large systems integrators will probably be interested in similar deals with Novell and other open-source vendors.

Large SIs may expand their own open source capabilities by acquiring smaller consulting firms within the next 18 months, Zachary said.

"I'm actually surprised that we haven't seen more of it today," he added.

Novell-Capgemini SUSE Linux partnership details

The Novell-Capgemini deal focuses on three key areas: First, Novell will create a packaged version of its SUSE Linux desktop and server operating system that will include development tools for Capgemini to build custom applications that work with open source software.

Second, Capgemini will create a desktop package based on Novell's SUSE Enterprise Linux , including as OpenOffice.org, an open source office suite, as an alternative for Windows-based desktops. Finally, Capgemini will offer services to help clients build data centers with virtualized servers, using Novell's systems management application ZENworks Orchestrator to automate those servers.

Chaumont said that one factor in choosing Novell to help build out its Linux consulting was that large corporations often use both open and closed source applications, a model Novell is well aligned with. Novell distributes SUSE Linux but also has closed source products, including ZENworks Orchestrator, and Novell signed an agreement with Microsoft last year that indemnified Novell SUSE users against patent infringements Microsoft has claimed Linux makes against Windows.

The Novell-Capgemini deal will initially focus on Capgemini's European operations, where most of Capgemini's business is based, but the company fully expects to offer consulting in North America as well, Chaumont said.

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