Health minister Lord Hunt said, "This is one of the steps we are taking to enable the NHS to purchase the technology it needs to bring the NHS into the 21st century."
Novell Net software products covered by the agreement include the Netware core operating system, Groupwise, Bordermanager, Zenworks for Desktops and Servers, and Novell Account Management. Novell executives said that the products will work in conjunction with existing software such as Microsoft products.
The deal follows the major three-year software subscription contract the NHS signed with Microsoft last year, which NHS officials said would save the health service more than £50m during the life of the contract.
As with the Microsoft arrangement, Novell will retain ownership of the software at the end of the contract. The Novell deal, which is available to all NHS organisations in England, is expected to cover about 100,000 desktops.
Officials at the NHS Information Authority will monitor deployment across the health service and will work with the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency and Novell to monitor the contract.