BrainShare: Novell talks OES and Linux

SALT LAKE CITY — Novell says the announcement of its Open Enterprise Server (OES) product at this year’s BrainShare user conference is in keeping with the vendor’s promise at last year’s event to give customers more flexibility and choice and to support Linux in the enterprise.

In his morning keynote on Monday, Jack Messman, chairman and CEO of the Waltham, Mass.-based vendor, told his audience that OES will deliver networking capabilities associated with Novell’s NetWare platform as well as the firm’s newly acquired Suse Linux and Ximian offerings. OES includes NetWare 7, the recently announced Suse Linux Enterprise Server 9, and a collection of networking services, including Nterprise Linux Services.

“The common set of services…will work on both kernels,” he said, adding that the services will be able to interoperate transparently between the two environments. For example, if a customer’s NetWare servers deliver its print services and if its Suse Linux servers run their file system, they will be able to print between the two, regardless of where the files reside.

Messman said the firm is making it easier for customers to move to OES by eliminating Nterprise Linux Server 2.0 as an entrant step to Netware 7.0. It has also bumped up the release date of OES to the end of this year.

Novell in a statement said it is positioning OES as a way for NetWare customers to start using Suse Linux under their current NetWare upgrade protection and maintenance agreements, giving them some flexibility in the timing of their transition to Linux. Users “now have the ability to choose between two operating systems….This is true flexibility,” he said. Customers will be able to run a mixed environment using a combination of NetWare, Windows and Linux servers.

For loyal Netware customers, Messman said Novell has “a commitment to protecting [their] future,” adding that, “we’re not dropping Netware — we’re adding Linux.” In a later Q&A session with the press, Messman emphasized that NetWare “is not off the radar” and will remain one of the two components of Open Enterprise Server.

Messman said that the big opportunities for OES are around services up the stack, and not just the operating system itself. “There is not a lot of revenue (in licensing the OS) because the code is free. But we will sell software and services that will give people the comfort of using Linux.”

Paul Yeung, manager of network security and infrastructure at the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) Central Ontario in Thornhill, Ont., told IT World Canada that in the short term, his company will probably not be using OES because it’s not quite ready to make the move just yet. “But in the long term, we will probably upgrade to open standards,” Yeung said.

CAA Central Ontario’s environment is mixed, he said, with about 50 servers in total — five per cent Linux, 20 per cent Unix, 30 per cent NetWare and the remainder running Windows. “I see us always being in a mixed environment — Netware will stay,” Yeung said.

The fact that Novell pushed the release date of OES forward one year was impressive for Susan Larden, senior network analyst with Calgary-based law firm Bennet Jones SLP. “I didn’t expect it so quickly and I hope that they stick to the date they announced.” She added that Novell has historically “been pretty good at…not making promises that it can’t keep.”

There is a possibility that Bennett Jones might move to OES, but that there are no concrete plans for that yet, Larden said. She added that at least it’s “nice to know that [Novell is] giving people a choice — they can either stick to NetWare or move to Linux. It gives people a good migration path and it will allow them to deploy some Linux along with Netware and decide which one’s working best for them.”

If the same features are available under Linux that are available under Netware, “there is no reason (for Bennett Jones) not to move to Linux,” Larden said. “But just like anything else, there has to be a compelling business case to do it.”

Yeung said he was glad to see that “Novell is back” — quoting the phrase Messman used in his keynote. Over the last while, “it seemed like it was sliding downhill, but the new focus on Linux is picking it up,” Yeung said.

Larden agreed that overall, the Linux strategy is a great one for Novell.

“It’s breathing new life into the company. I think a lot of people felt that Novell was losing the network operating system battle. It diversified enough to continue as a company because of the services and applications it was offering and (by) keeping those open-platform. But this brings them back into the network operating system world. On top of that, they’re opening themselves up to a new set of customers as well,” she said.

“It’s nice to hear people talking about Novell again — that’s coming from a Novell die-hard who’s been working with Novell products pretty much all of her IT career life — 11 years, almost.”

Novell said it would announce pricing, licensing and availability details for OES at a later date.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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