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Microsoft Targets Linux Server in Amdocs IP Deal

Microsoft announced this week that it has struck an intellectual property (IP) deal with Amdocs Software Systems Ltd.

The deal is described as a "patent cross-license agreement" by Microsoft, enabling each entity licensing access to the other's patent portfolio. Amdocs is a provider of business support services and operations support systems to telecom companies. In May, Amdocs reported second-quarter revenue of $809 million.

Few details associated with the deal were described, although Microsoft's announcement indicated that Amdocs will pay an undisclosed amount to take a license from Microsoft covering "Amdoc's use of Linux-based servers in its data centers."

The Linux server focus in this deal harkens back to Microsoft's initial bombshell claim in 2007 that companies using the open source Linux operating system were violating 235 of Microsoft's patents. That claim, which wasn't outlined with any specifics, was met with outrage among Linux community members.

Less than a handful of companies producing Linux-based servers struck deals back then to license Microsoft's patent portfolio. The one standout exception was Novell and its SuSE Linux Enterprise server OS. Microsoft and Novell had an IP arrangement in which Novell provided vouchers to SuSE Linux Enterprise server customers that Microsoft would not sue them, and it also assured interoperability with Windows Server. Novell was acquired by Attachmate Corp. in a $2.2 billion deal announced in November of 2010. Attachmate rolled out a SUSE business unit that is continuing this IP agreement with Microsoft.

Microsoft offers to license its intellectual property to companies, something that it's not legally bound to do. However, its IP agreements associated with Linux mostly had been confined to the mobile sphere of late, where it has struck deals with, or sued, its own hardware partners. A few hardware partners have resisted Microsoft in the courts, including Motorola Mobility, which is now owned by Microsoft's rival Google.

The Amdocs deal seems like a shift of sorts, in which Microsoft's legal crosshairs have swung back to Linux server, one of the original legal targets. The server market isn't wholly owned by Microsoft. In the Web server world, Windows Server use badly trails Linux server use. Microsoft's early deal with Novell over SuSE Linux Enterprise server represented a grudging acknowledgment by Microsoft that its Windows Server customers were also using Linux server products.

Microsoft dates its "IP licensing program" back to December 2003. Since that time, Microsoft claims to have struck more than 1,100 licensing agreements with companies. On the mobile side, Microsoft claims that about 70 percent of U.S. hardware makers using Linux mobile OS variants have taken licenses.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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