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IBM, Novell To Offer Licensing For Linux On Blades

Under the new subscription model, users would pay one price for an entire BladeCenter Chassis, regardless of how many and what type of blades are in it.

IBM and Novell are making it easier to buy and manage blade servers by offering a one-price licensing agreement for Novell SUSE Linux on IBM's BladeCenter chassis.

Under the new subscription option, which the companies jointly unveiled Wednesday, customers of IBM's blade servers would pay for one license for SUSE Linux to cover the entire BladeCenter chassis, regardless of how many and which types of blade servers are in it. The new licensing model is expected to be available late this month.

The chassis licensing scheme can be a big money-saver for customers, said Juhi Jotwani, director of IBM's BladeCenter and xSeries solutions. The license covers up to 14 Intel-based, AMD-based or PowerPC-based servers, either single- or multi-processor units. A one-year license for the full chassis lists for $2,792, and a three-year license costs $6,980, meaning that a customer can save up to $17,100 over a three-year period using the chassis license, she said.

For example, a one-year operating system license for SUSE Linux for a blade server with two Intel processors costs $349, while the same license for a PowerPC-based server costs $689, according to Jotwani. Using the PowerPC license as a base, it would cost customers about $24,080 to license SUSE Linux for three years for 14 servers, compared with $6,980 using the new chassis license, she said.

And such savings are only a start, said Jeff Medeiros, CEO of rs-unix, a San Francisco-based IBM partner. The solution provider has been putting Linux on IBM blade servers for about eight months, but as with any operating system, the management of server licenses becomes difficult over time as the number of servers grows, he said, noting that there’s a new license to track every time a new blade is inserted into a chassis.

"Also, the subscription and support for Linux licenses might not be the same time as the hardware," Medeiros said. "It becomes difficult to manage all these assets. This new licensing cuts a significant amount of that management."

It’s also hard to beat single-chassis pricing, said Medeiros, who estimated that the OS savings would start once the average chassis is half-full. "And the break-even for a BladeCenter chassis is half-full anyway," he added. "If a customer can't fill half a chassis, blade servers are not the right solution."

Ed Anderson, vice president of product marketing for Novell, said the software license is a Novell SKU that solution providers can purchase from his company or IBM. Since the OS isn’t bundled with the BladeCenter chassis, solution providers can provide it to customers with existing blade server enclosures as current per-server licenses expire.

The IBM/Novell license agreement is not the first such agreement for Linux on blade servers. In early August, Hewlett-Packard signed an agreement with Red Hat whereby for one price, an HP blade server enclosure with up to 17 devices--including SAN switches, IP switches, and up to eight servers or storage devices--is covered by a single Red Hat Enterprise Linux license.

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