Novell spells out NetWare Linux commitment

The groundswell of vendor support for Linux in the enterprise continued this week, with Novell Inc.’s latest moves.

NetWare 6.5 global product manager Rob Seely revealed the company will ship Linux Services 1.0 free to current customers in December – and will ship a two-kernel offering (Linux and Novell proprietary) of the NetWare 7.0 operating system within 18 months to two years.

Seely said that contrary to rumors that Novell was planning to dump its proprietary NetWare kernel in favor of Linux, the networking heavyweight would allow customers to choose which OS they preferred, ruling out any forced march to open source for existing customers.

While he expected some NetWare customers to taste test Linux now that it is available on the Novell menu, Seely said he expects most of the uptake will come from enterprises that need to be convinced of adequate application support and backing.

“It will be huge, people will realize that (enterprise-grade Linux) is really serious now,” Seely said, adding that the full suite of Novell solutions such as identity management, automatic user provisioning and browser-based, self-help and self-service facilities were currently being ported into the Novell suite of products.

Gartner’s Asia-Pacific Research Director for Servers and Storage, Phil Sargeant, said Novell’s thrust into open source is both a timely and necessary survival move that will send a strong signal that Linux has broken out of the Web server stereotype and is ready for serious enterprise action.

“Big organizations like Telstra and the banks are risk averse, have plenty of support, plenty of research and development, stability and viability. From that perspective it’s very good (for Linux and Novell),” Sargeant said, adding that IBM’s investment of a “chunk of money” will elevate blue-chip perception of open source.

Sargeant said the move will most likely prove mutually beneficial for both Novell and open source in general, noting that Novell has recently found its core OS NetWare languishing of late.

“The reality is that the momentum was not behind NetWare, they needed a vehicle and Linux is that vehicle. What Novell has been doing is divorcing a lot of its product offerings from NetWare. iFolder and eDirectory haven’t been tied to NetWare as they were in the past. The Linux community is probably a little concerned, so it will be interesting to see how the community and I shouldn’t call them propeller-heads because they are really good guys, will react,” Sargeant said.

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