Under a deal disclosed late Monday, the German manufacturers will purchase from Microsoft certificates that entitle them to three years of service and support for SUSE Enterprise Linux from Novell. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Both BMW and Siemens said they plan to run a combination of Linux and Microsoft Windows in their data centers. "Interoperability remains one of the top challenges for our customers," said Susan Heystee, Novell's VP and general manager for strategic alliances, in a statement.
Microsoft and Novell last year struck a controversial alliance under which Microsoft resells SUSE Linux service and support at a markup. Microsoft has said that companies that purchase Linux through the alliance are exempt from its claims that the open source operating system violates Microsoft patents. Other major customers of the alliance to date include multinational retailer Wal-Mart Stores.
Microsoft's patent protection pledge has drawn the ire of Linux advocates, who insist the OS does not include any Microsoft software.
In an effort to frustrate Microsoft's claims, the group that governs open source licensing revised the terms of its General Public License in June. Under GPLv3, commercial software publishers that distribute open source software covered by the license cannot offer patent protection to some Linux users and not others.
Microsoft claims that provision of GPLv3 has no legal weight and recently struck a Linux distribution agreement with Xandros that's similar to its pact with Novell.
To counter, the Free Software Foundation last month issued a statement implying that it's willing to let the courts decide the issue. "We will ensure ... that Microsoft respects our copyrights and complies with our licenses," the FSF said in a statement.