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Novell Looking for Acquisition Targets?

Linux vendor may be sizing up virtualization providers.

Matt Asay recent blogged about how Novell might be in the market to make an acquisition this year in the virtualization space. He lists XenSource and Altiris as possible targets.

If Novell wants to maximize the potential of their Microsoft alliance and bring about a scenario like Canonical founder, Mark Shuttleworth, outlined in a recent Red Herring interview

Microsoft is going to claim that deploying Linux anywhere, unless you pay Microsoft a patent fee, is a violation of their patent and they haven’t proved that yet. But they certainly seem to be positioning themselves in such a way that they could do so.

… then you have to think they’ll buy XenSource.

Why XenSource? Because it’s at the heart of Red Hat’s pending RHEL 5 virtualization features.

If you’re into doomsday scenarios — and you kind of have to be these days — you have to wonder to what extent Novell would be willing to use as a competitive weapon the agreement with Microsoft that excludes Novell customers from patent litigation.

If Microsoft has a patent covering Xen-like virtualization tucked away somewhere in their intellectual property vault then Novell could use that to plant doubt in customers minds about upgrading to RHEL 5.

Novell paid handsomely for that patent indemnification — both in cash and community PR — you have to assume they’re going to put it to use and acquiring XenSource would put them in a position to leverage it.

Of course all of this idle speculation on a slow news day could amount to nothing. But regardless of whether the intellectual property threats are real or implied, the Open Source market seems to have graduated from feature wars to information wars. The open solutions of 2007 could start to be judged not just by if they solve technical problems but if they also pass muster with a company’s Chief Legal Officer.

And that’s a shame. The last thing that Open Source vendors need is customers asking, “Is it safe?” It’s what SCO aimed for and failed to accomplish.

But if done correctly, Novell could show SCO a thing or two about how the game is played.

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