In a new initiative that targets rival Novell, Red Hat announced a partnership with IBM on Wednesday that makes its enterprise Linux software solution available on IBM mainframe computers.

Novell, which offers a rival form of Linux software known as Suse, had been the defacto Linux software provider for IBM “System z” mainframes.

IBM and Red Hat announced the partnership at Red Hat’s annual “Summit” with users in San Diego.

The deal reflects growing hostility and competitiveness between Red Hat and Novell. Red Hat has been quite outspoken in its criticism of Novell since Novell announced a partnership with Microsoft recently. Red Hat has shunned a similar deal with Microsoft that includes indemnification against intellectual property suits involving Microsoft patents. Red Hat does not believe Linux imposes on Microsoft IP.

Reuters first reported the deal on Tuesday. The news service quoted analysts as saying the alliance is a victory for Red Hat and a loss for Novell.

"This is a competitive win for Red Hat," Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research, told Reuters. "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.

Katherine Egbert, an analyst at Jefferies & Co., added: "Now there are some deals that Novell is not going to get because Red Hat is going to get them instead.”

Under the partnership, Red Hat and IBM will work together to evaluate, deploy and support Red Hat Enterprise Linux in a mainframe environment.
IBM System z mainframes are also specifically designed to enhance security and support virtualization, which enables the operation of different operating systems on one server.

Red Hat has worked closely with the federal government to receive security certification that are required so its software can be used by security and defense agencies within the government. Red Hat brands the software Security Enhanced Linux, or SELinux. Among the developers of SELinux was the National Security Agency.

In a recent example, Red Hat was chosen to participate with other defense contractors in the new Zumwalt Class destroyer project.

“Governments and enterprises worldwide need highly available, highly secure IT resources. Enterprise Linux and System z uniquely meet those requirements,” said Jim Stallings, IBM’s vice president and general manager of System z. “We are pleased to announce an enhanced relationship with Red Hat to deliver more scalability, security and reliability to Enterprise Linux mainframe solutions.”

Red Hat has also certified 18 engineers in technical “bootcamps” related to System z mainframes and has committed staff support for the project around the world.

“Red Hat Enterprise Linux is the one major operating system which scales from commodity server to mainframe, giving customers the widest range of choices while standardizing and simplifying their IT environments,” said Alex Pinchev, president of international operations for Red Hat. “For organizations requiring the highest security, scalability and reliability, System z and Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a compelling choice.”

IBM also offers its own software solution for mainframes as well as Oracle applications that run on Linux.