Novell slashes mainframe Linux pricing

To help lure more users into mainframe Linux deployments, Novell on Monday dramatically reduced its pricing on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for IBM's System z mainframes.

Under the new pricing program -- which is available through both Novell and IBM resellers -- customers can now buy three-year subscriptions for 33% less than before, and five-year subscriptions for 47% less.

The discounts are only being offered, though, for workload consolidation from non-System z platforms such as PC servers, and for renewals of existing SUSE Enterprise subscriptions.

Why, though, is Novell cutting its pricing on the mainframe edition of SUSE right now?

During the New York City launch in February of System z 11 10, IBM focused heavily on PC server consolidation on to z Series-based Linux clusters as a reason for customers to move to the IBM mainframe.

Steve Mills, IBM's software chief, told reporters, analysts, and customers attending the launch that System z has shown greater revenue growth in recent years than any other hardware platform, including the Intel-based PC.

But IBM, for its part, makes most of its money on the mainframe side from sales of hardware and services, rather than software, industry analysts often point out.

Novell, of course, is not a hardware vendor at all. But to help buttress its revenues on the services side in the meantime, Novell has reportedly set May 1 as the official rollout date for a new services offering in the category of volume license agreement (VLA) maintenance.

Novell is already offering the new service to registered users, anyway, according to a written statement recently put out by a third-party software vendor named Bomgar.

Bomgar says that Novell support engineers are using its software to provide customers with 24/7 online troubleshooting and assistance "regardless of location, time zone, Internet connection speed, or operating system."

At the same time, it isn't all that surprising if Novell is particularly in need of a sales boost on the mainframe side.

Novell officials continue to claim that Microsoft it picked up a number of new customers through a controversial "interoperability" deal with Microsoft, announced in late 2006. But the deal proved highly unpopular with many Linux users, and the mainframe market is not exactly Microsoft's bailiwick.

Meanwhile, Novell could eventually be facing some new competition, even on mainframes.

As a possible step in that direction, in January, for the first time ever, IBM expanded beyond Novell and Red Hat for its supported Linux platforms, with the announcement of Ubuntu Linux support for a new office productivity suite from Lotus.

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