With a joint cloud computing push in mind, Microsoft and SUSE have extended their Windows-Linux interoperability relationship for another four years. As part of the deal, Microsoft has committed to investing $100 million in new SUSE Linux Enterprise certificates. Here's a look at the potential upside for channel partners, and lingering concerns from the open source community.

First, the history: Microsoft and Novell originally inked a Windows-SUSE interoperability deal nearly five years ago. More recently, Attachmate acquired Novell and SUSE. And SUSE now runs as an Attachmate business unit. Admittedly, the Microsoft-SUSE relationship has triggered concerns within the open source community over the years.

Still, The VAR Guy believes enterprise CIOs have largely applauded the Microsoft-SUSE work, since so many businesses are looking for ways to integrate Windows Server and Linux within private data centers and across public clouds.

Keeping Score So Far

Microsoft and SUSE claim their joint relationship served more than 725 customers worldwide. Also, SUSE continues to promote Linux subscription support across SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and community Linux distributions such as CentOS.

To the credit of Microsoft and SUSE, the two companies are reaching out to partners to promote the four-year relationship extension. International partners working with both Microsoft and SUSE, the companies say, include ALSANET AG, Bechtle AG, Comparex AT, ErmesTel, Kelway Ltd., Liga Distribution ApS, NEXPERT AG, SCC, Securelinx Ltd., Softcat Ltd., Stover AS, Trustmarque Solutions Ltd. and 2e2.

Longer term, Microsoft and SUSE official both say the Windows-Linux interoperability work will increasingly focus on cloud computing.

Reality Check

The VAR Guy is intrigued, though he realizes anytime Microsoft works with Linux it's sure to trigger some skepticism within open source circles.

Back in 1996 2006, some conspiracy theorists wondered if Microsoft would somehow hurt Linux or other industry players (such as Red Hat) through the SUSE relationship. Other skeptics wondered if Microsoft would simply make payments to SUSE without really securing SUSE customer wins. But the biggest issue involved a Microsoft-Novell patent deal, which suggested to some critics that Microsoft may eventually pursue legal action against other Linux providers.

The bottom line so far: The VAR Guy believes the ongoing Microsoft-SUSE relationship has benefited channel partners, especially Windows Server partners that are looking to gain some Linux interoperability expertise.