Novell looks to extend open source reach

Novell last week at LinuxWorld outlined a slew of products that bolster its Linux product line and a batch of initiatives aimed at cementing its role in the open source community.

Perhaps the most attention grabbing of Novell's announcements was an open source collaboration server project dubbed Hula .

The goal for Hula is "to become for collaboration what Apache is to servers," said Novell Chairman and CEO Jack Messman in his keynote address at LinuxWorld.

The name Hula comes from the Hawaii Five-O TV show.Hawaii 5-0 , and so it just flowed naturally from there," says Nat Friedman, vice president of collaboration and desktop engineering for Novell. 

"We always liked the theme song to

Novell has pushed hard into Linux over the past year-plus via acquisitions, partnerships and internal development. It also announced the availability of its Open Enterprise Server operating system and plans to include the open source Xen virtualization software in the next release of its SuSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Novell's contributions to the open source community will include its eDirectory APIs, Messman said.

He added that the Hula project centers on development of an open source-based collaboration server, which will include calendar, address book and mail functionality.

Hula is based on Novell's NetMail collaboration server software, which the company sells for $15 per user and has more than 4 million users. Novell donated more than 200,000 lines of NetMail code to the Hula project. The code represents the bulk of NetMail code, with eDirectory identity management and nSURE audit code stripped out, Novell says.

Hula can scale to 250,000 users on a single server with 50,000 concurrently connected users, Novell says. It will use Internet standards such as SMTP, Internet Message Access Protocol, iCalendar and the CalDAV calendar access protocol.

"As a foundation for an open source project for a scalable e-mail system, Hula is pretty impressive," says Dan Kuznetsky, vice president of system software at IDC.

Keith Stevenson, senior communications analyst at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, has used NetMail for several years to manage more than 32,000-student mail accounts on a single server.

"We selected NetMail because it ran on Linux, was extremely well integrated and was able to handle a large number of student accounts on a modest hardware investment," he says.

Stevenson is optimistic that the open source community will make the technology even more useful.

"There are a few quirks such as logging information for troubleshooting purposes that have annoyed me," Stevenson says. "We'll certainly be paying a lot of attention to Hula since it represents the future of NetMail."

Hula, which currently runs only on Linux, will work on NetWare, Windows and Mac OS X networks by March, according to project leaders.

Hula is licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License and the Mozilla Public License.

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