Novell has launched a migration service in an attempt ook aim at rival and Linux market leader Red Hat with a migration service designed to help move Linux users onto Novell's SuSE enterprise servers.

The SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) Subscription with Expanded Support program is a three-year contract that covers support for Red Hat or CentOS, a Red Hat clone, during the first two years of the deal.

During that time, Novell will provide Red Hat and CentOS server users with binaries released by Red Hat for its platform and technical support. The subscriptions, which include two years of transition support and three years SLES support, are similar to the three-year priority contracts Novell offers on its own servers.

"Part of what Novell is seeing here is they think they can go after some of these customers with the value proposition they can offer," says Al Gillen, an analyst at IDC. "Frankly, they have made a lot of acquisitions to fill out their virtualisation and virtualisation management strategy. In fact, PlateSpin has been a really big one for them and arguably they have a good story to tell and they are sensing they can go and tell that story."

The open source model lets Novell take the updates Red Hat issues for its own platform and re-package those for distribution. It is the same model CentOS uses to create its clone of the Red Hat platform.

"We think this is a competitive replacement programme," says Justin Steinman, vice president of solution and product marketing. "I don't think Red Hat will be excited about this, and I wouldn't be surprised if they want to do their own version."

Novell's migration services will not include rewriting applications or tweaking other software that users might be running on top of Red Hat servers. Novell's partners will offer migration services to fill those needs and others related to moving workloads to SLES.

Novell has been informally offering the migration contracts as one-off contracts to customers moving to SLES.