Enterprises using business application software from SAP AG and operating system software from SuSE Linux AG will be able to contact either company for technical support under a new service agreement between the two German vendors.

SAP and SuSE will provide a one-stop support service to joint customers running SAP's mission-critical application software over SuSE's Linux Enterprise Server software, the companies have said.

The support ranges from assistance within defined turnaround times during regular office hours, to 24-hour, seven-days-a-week availability of engineers trained on customers' systems, according to the companies.

"In the past, when customers contacted SAP support engineers about a technical problem and it involved the operating system, they typically suggested calling SuSE," said SuSE company spokesman Christian Egle. "Under the new agreement, joint customers can call either SAP or SuSE for support. We believe this one-face-to-the customer interface will speed up and simplify the technical support process substantially."

Although engineers at both companies have cooperated in various ways to resolve glitches in recent years, the new agreement defines "how they will work together in detail to ensure that customers received a qualified answer," said SuSE Chief Technology Officer (CTO) J├╝rgen Geck.

SAP and SuSE have a history of collaboration, which hasn't always been visible to outsiders. "For years, we have had our software engineers working directly with their counterparts at SAP in Walldorf," Egle said.

SuSE is one of SAP's 17 global technology partners, together with IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp., Geck said.

The Nuremberg, Germany, open source software vendor has similar support arrangements with other companies, including IBM and Network Appliance Inc., according to Geck.

The deal between SAP and SuSE is nonexclusive, meaning that SAP could strike deals with other Linux vendors, including members of UnitedLinux, a common Linux program launched by four companies: SuSE, Conectiva Inc., Turbolinux Inc. and The SCO Group Inc.

SCO, however, is no longer part of this initiative. In May, the company announced plans to abandon its Linux business and suspend activities with the UnitedLinux group. The move followed SCO's March 7 lawsuit against IBM Corp., in which it charged that IBM misappropriated code it had acquired during an ill-fated effort to create a common Unix for the 64-bit Itanium chip architecture. SCO and IBM were both involved in that effort.