Heavyweights swing to open source

Novell is the latest in a series of leading vendors likely to embrace an open source approach to its key product lines, which may include providing access to its Novell Directory Services (NDS) code. And Microsoft could be next.

Speaking exclusively to Computerworld, open source architect at Novell Kris Magnusson stated the company "firmly and unequivocally" believes in the principles and practices of open source.

"Everything we own is on the table because open source is a good way to satisfy developer needs and integrate them into Novell," he said.

"But we need to be prudent from a business point of view and skilfully decide what we release as open source and what we don't."

Novell's strategy represents a growing trend towards the open source model popularised by the Linux community. That trend, and the ruling of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson in the US Department of Justice's antitrust case, may even force Microsoft to open up its Windows and Office application programming interface (API) code and port the products to Linux.

Sources close to the company have claimed Microsoft is already acting on those projects.

But Tony Wilkinson, Windows senior product marketing manager at Microsoft Australia, denied the company had plans to open any of its Windows or Office products "at the moment".

Sun Microsystems is also working towards eventually "community sourcing" as much of its software as possible, according to company cofounder and chief scientist Bill Joy.

But the Sun concept falls short of true open sourcing, where anyone can access the software and amend it for development or commercial use. Under its model, Sun will charge commercial users a licence fee.

Novell's Paul Corriveau, product marketing manager for NDS, conceded that making NDS's source code available would increase its adoption rate in the market.

"We are definitely looking at all ways to promote NDS's ubiquity and we are not ruling out any options [including opening parts of its source code]."

Corriveau said Novell's decision to port NDS to Linux within 60 days demonstrated the vendor's support for the open source model.

He commented: "We recognise that Linux will have a place in many organisations so we'll work with them on ways to make NDS more available to them."

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