BOSTON – Red Hat Inc. said on Wednesday it formed a partnership with IBM to develop and sell software for mainframe computers, in what analysts said was a blow to chief rival Novell Inc.
The agreement covers versions of Red Hat’s Linux operating system, which computing giant International Business Machines Corp. has agreed to promote for use on System z, its most powerful line of business computers.
“This is a competitive win for Red Hat,” said Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research. “It shows that Red Hat is getting closer to IBM.”
For several years, IBM has had a similar arrangement with Novell, which provides the vast majority of Linux software currently used on IBM’s mainframe computers.
Analysts say the absence of such a relationship with Red Hat has meant that, until now, Novell’s SUSE Linux has been the de facto choice of IBM customers wanting to run their mainframe computers on the Linux operating system.
They say the vast majority of IBM’s System z Linux clients use Novell’s software.
“Now there are some deals that Novell is not going to get because Red Hat is going to get them instead,” said Jefferies & Co. analyst Katherine Egbert.”
Red Hat and IBM say their engineers will join forces to identify and address areas where they can make their products more attractive to specific types of clients.
One area where that might make a difference is with government agencies.
IBM and Red Hat say they have already assembled a team of engineers that have worked together to develop technology that ensures classified data is only made accessible to people with proper security clearances.
Linux is the most popular type of open-source software, a movement begun as a grass-roots approach to developing computer programs.
Varying versions of the operating system are available from dozens of sources. While they are all based on the same core code, which is known as the Linux kernel, most are not compatible with each other.
People familiar with the new Red Hat-IBM partnership told Reuters on Tuesday the companies would announce a deal.
When asked for comment on Tuesday, Novell Senior Vice President Roger Levy said: “Our ‘desktop to data center’ strategy and solutions for Linux in the enterprise have resonated well with clients … We are not surprised to see Red Hat attempt to adopt our positioning and challenge our success in the enterprise.”
Red Hat shares were down 1 percent at $21.98 and IBM shares were up 0.7 percent at $104.01 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Novell shares fell 0.28 percent to $7.20 on the Nasdaq.