Novell adding to its Linux lineup

Four months after acquiring SuSE Linux AG, Novell Inc. continues to hammer out the details of its open source strategy. It recently announced plans to make its GroupWise software available for the Linux operating system for the first time, and confirmed that it plans to release the source code for a popular SuSE tool for managing Linux servers to the open source community.

GroupWise 6.5 for Linux will be available March 30 for both Suse Linux and Red Hat Inc.’s Linux distribution, said Marina Wasler, Novell’s director of marketing for central Europe. GroupWise lets users access e-mail, calendaring, instant messaging and other applications. It is offered currently for Novell’s NetWare operating system, Windows NT and Windows 2000. Customers migrating from competing products will be able to buy the software for the price of an upgrade, while customers running GroupWise 6.5 on other platforms will be able to get the Linux version for no additional fee, Novell said.

Richard Seibt, Novell’s president for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, confirmed that Novell plans to release SuSE’s YaST (Yet Another Setup Tool) program for installing and managing Linux under an open source license, providing developers with more freedom in how they can use the software. Speaking at the recent Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, Novell executives also announced plans to release a product called ZenWorks Patch Management later this month. Built around software from PatchLink Corp., the software will help administrators deal with the continuous stream of patches released for Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system, officials said.

The product tells them which patches and holes they have on each Windows system in their network, and can deploy patches automatically in a bid to fix holes before hackers can exploit them. It will be available for an annual subscription of US$18 per device, the company said.

Novell has watched its share of the server operating system market decline steadily over the years, and its acquisition of Suse is designed to put it back on track with a software platform that is enjoying rapid growth. Novell has said that it will stay committed to customers using its NetWare operating system, but will also help them migrate to the open source platform.

Boscov’s Department Store LLC in Reading, Pa., gave up on NetWare several years ago, said Joe Poole, manager of technical support at the 40-store retail chain. But he and other IT managers at Boscov’s met with a Novell salesman this week to discuss, among other things, the possible use of Linux on its 1,200 desktops.

“We did write Novell off with NetWare,” Poole said, noting that Boscov’s primarily migrated to Windows-based servers. “But I’m more excited about SUSE than ever before because of Novell’s purchase of them.” He added, though, that SUSE users may have to pay higher prices to Novell.

Earl Perkins, an analyst at Meta Group Inc., said users should also expect products that bring together pieces of the technology Novell has acquired with its security, identity management and Web application development software.

More centrally, however, Novell’s Linux drive has refocused the company and revitalized its core NetWare services as a companion to SUSE Linux, Perkins said. “This gives promise to anybody who wants to listen that there is an operating system on par with Microsoft for Linux,” he added. “I see a lot of spring in the step at Novell.”

Meanwhile, the company finds itself with a broad, sometimes overlapping product line consisting of both proprietary and open source software. It has two open source desktop operating systems, for example — one from SuSE, which uses the KDE user interface, and one from Ximian, which uses the GNOME interface.

Novell will continue to support both operating systems, according to Seibt, but at some point the company will pick one and recommend that customers use it, he said. Novell isn’t ready to say yet which operating system it plans to back.

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