Banking giant HSBC is to standardise its Linux deployments on Novell's Suse distribution, becoming the latest major enterprise to tap into Novell's tie-up with Microsoft.

Under the terms of the agreement between Microsoft and Novell last November Microsoft will officially recommend Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise platform and the two firms will provide each other's customers with patent coverage.

The tie-up was billed as paving the way for improved interoperability between the operating systems of the two former rivals. But it sparked criticism from rival Linux distributor Red Hat and some in the open source community.

The HSBC deal will see Microsoft supply the bank with three-year priority support subscriptions to Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server.

HSBC – which has more than 9,500 branches employing 284,000 staff in 76 countries – is seeking to reduce the diversity of its Linux environment, cut its total cost of ownership and improve interoperability with its Microsoft Windows infrastructure.

Matthew O'Neill, group head of distributed systems for HSBC's global IT operations, said: "The Microsoft-Novell agreement is a great catalyst to helping us reduce the complexity of our Linux environment as we standardize our Linux infrastructure with SUSE Linux Enterprise and continue to extend the use of Microsoft Active Directory."

He added: "Some will be surprised to learn that our Windows environment has a lower total cost of ownership than our current Linux environment. Our decision to simplify our mixed-source environment with Microsoft and Novell will allow us to reduce the cost and complexity. That's why we have selected Novell as our preferred Linux partner to support our Linux infrastructure going forward."

HSBC's contract follows a similar deal signed in January by retailer Wal-Mart for Microsoft to supply it with Suse Enterprise Server.