Novell heralds Linux in the enterprise

SALT LAKE CITY (03/22/2004) - With the refrain of "Novell is back," the opening keynote address at BrainShare in Salt Lake City on Monday made one thing clear: Novell Inc. is throwing its full weight behind Linux with the aim of driving the technology into the heart of the enterprise datacenter.

To that end, Novell revealed plans at BrainShare to change the name and scope of its NetWare OS to include Linux. The release of NetWare 7 will be moved up by a full year and will contain both the NetWare kernel and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server in one package. The offering will be rechristened Open Enterprise Server and will ship by the end of the year, said Jack Messman, chairman and CEO of Novell.

The Open Enterprise Server will have a common set of management services, and a common install and delivery mechanism on NetWare and Linux, Messman said.

While the company presses forward with Linux, Messman made it clear that Novell is not abandoning the development and support of NetWare.

"We are not dropping NetWare. We are adding Linux," he said.

Addressing the future of the company's flagship NetWare brand in a press conference, Messman promised that the Netware brand is not going away.

"Open Enterprise Server has two components: SuSE Linux and NetWare. We intend to keep those brands for foreseeable future. Netware is going to be here for a long time," Messman said.

In the past year, Novell assembled a Linux arsenal, acquiring Ximian in August and completing its purchase of SuSE Linux in January. The goal is to make Linux a viable option on enterprise desktops and servers by providing the management, support, and services needed to make the technology palatable to corporate CIOs, Messman said.

"With the combination of SuSE Linux, Ximian, and Novell, we are the only vendor who can provide a complete solution on Linux from the desktop to the server. (This) puts Novell in a unique position to drive Linux from the periphery to the datacenter," Messman said.

Enterprises fear relying on a single vendor's proprietary technology because it increases security risks and costs, Messman pointed out. However, open source faces many hurdles to full acceptance by enterprise IT. These issues include support, systems management, and liability. Novell is answering each of these challenges, he said. In terms of the hot button issue of liability, Novell offers an indemnification program in an effort to protect customers who invest in Linux, according to Messman.

Novell also announced during the keynote that it will release into the open source community both its SuSE Yast management tool and its Novell iFolder storage and filing offering.

These moves, Messman said, illustrate Novell's deep commitment to the open source community. "Novell has made a commitment to give more to open source than we take away and we are walking the talk," he said.

During the keynote, Messman announced that ZenWorks 6.5, available for public beta in mid-April, will include Ximian Red Carpet Enterprise and ZenWorks Patch Management in one suite.

Showing the roadmap for its identity management services, Novell revealed plans to include Eclipse-based visual tools in future releases of Nsure Identity Manager, offering a point and click visual development environment. In addition, Novell will combine Nsure and Extend technologies to provide enhanced workflow.

Although Novell has pushed hard during the past year to become a major force in open source, it is vital that the company not relinquish its proprietary software development efforts, according to Chris Stone, Novell vice chairman, office of the CEO.

"The trick is to work on the peaceful coexistence of proprietary and open source. You will see that at work in our development efforts," Stone said. In 2004, much of that development will focus on the Linux desktop, he added.

"Are you paying unreasonable licensing fees for software and forced to upgrade to get (more) functionality? How long has it been since you have had a viable alternative on the desktop? We are building a complete Linux desktop," Stone said.

Novell plans to combine the SuSE Linux desktop and Ximian desktop into one project, Stone said. The offering will include centralized administration, password management, and patch management. The benefits for customers will be more choice, less cost, and increased security, he explained.

Taking its own Linux desktop messaging to heart, Novell internally is operating an open desktop initiative in which 100 percent of its employees will be moved off Microsoft Office to Open Office by midsummer, according to Stone. By the end of the year the goal is to get all employees on Linux, he added.

"We see a clear tend in OSes going forward. You either get deeper into Microsoft or get out as fast as you can," Stone said. The triple bill of Novell, SuSE, and Ximian offers a clear path out of the Microsoft jungle.

"Now when the manual says install Windows 2000 or better, now you can. You can install Linux," Stone said.

In addition, Stone revealed that Novell is building a modular run time version of eDirectory called Kepler. The Kepler project would allow eDirectory to be bundled with applications without requiring the typical installation.

Fitting with the theme of the day, Linus Torvalds made an appearance on stage, rousing loud cheers from the crowd. Torvalds said his development focus for the immediate future will be on driving the Linux desktop.

When asked what he believed was the number one threat to Linux, Torvalds said that technical issues do not worry him at all, but software patents do.

"Open source is the perfect way to solve technical issues," he said. "The thing that worries me is software patents. (It is) a non-technical issue that (could be) used to stop development. That is the biggest threat."

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