Novell denies reports on open code

Novell Inc. has acknowledged that someday it could become desirable or necessary to open up parts of the source code for Novell Directory Services (NDS), but it said it has no immediate plans to do so, despite published reports to the contrary.

Analysts said there would likely be little demand among developers to tinker with the software at such a low level.

The Apache Web server and Linux operating system have increased the popularity of open source software development, in which original code is freely shared among developers, who loosely collaborate to improve the software.

Following that trend, Netscape Communications Corp. has opened the code of the Mozilla core of its Navigator browser, and Microsoft Corp. recently acknowledged that it would consider opening some code in Windows NT.

Although Novell has submitted some open code to standards bodies and licenses open code to operating systems vendors that incorporate NDS, the company wouldn’t open code more widely unless it faced a groundswell of demand from developers, said Michael Simpson, marketing director at Novell.

“It’s not like a Mozilla thing. The product is not very conducive to that because it is used for security,” he said.

But if delopers aren’t satisfied with the numerous application programming interfaces (APIs) that Novell provides to NDS, the company would consider opening up parts of it more widely, Simpson said.

But parts that would compromise the network security features of NDS would remain closed, Simpson said.

John Hart, director of MIS at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which is migrating to Novell’s NetWare 5.0, said that in general, he would welcome open code for NDS because it would add to the development options available to programmers. But analysts said most corporate developers probably won’t find much pragmatic use for open code.

Many companies are moving away from doing highly technical custom development work in-house, said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at International Data Corp., a research firm in Framingham, Mass.

Corporations also will be reluctant to part with the support they receive for NDS from Novell.

Once a company tinkered with the source code of a product, it would be difficult for the vendor to help them recover from mistakes, said Jamie Lewis, an analyst at The Burton Group Corp. in Salt Lake City. Most developers would prefer to use APIs, he said.