Why NetWare isn’t going open source

* Novell isn’t going to make NetWare open source

With all the talk recently about Novell “open sourcing” software, there’s one question that keeps coming up in my mail from readers. Why doesn’t Novell open-source NetWare?

The OpenSuSE project is just the latest example of Novell’s move to put more software development and maintenance into the hands of users. Novell previously created open source projects for iFolder and Netmail.

We’ve beaten to death the mantra that Open Enterprise Server (OES) was designed as a migration strategy to get people moving from NetWare to Linux. We’re pretty confident that there’ll be no further development of NetWare. So why not create an “OpenNetWare” project and turn over development and maintenance to a dedicated community of NetWare users, third-party developers and others interested in continuing to evolve what’s been called the most elegant server operating system ever created?

The biggest problem with that scenario is exactly that NetWare is an extremely elegant operating system. The NetWare kernel is lean and mean. What most of us think of as “NetWare” are the utilities and tools which ride on top of that elegant core. Without those tools and utilities, the NetWare kernel resembles a well-tuned racing car which you turn on - then walk away from. You can stroll all around it and admire the engine, but unless you get “on top” of that engine, you aren’t going anywhere.

The big draw of OES was that it would run the same tools and utilities - would have the same “look and feel” - no matter if you were running the NetWare kernel or the SuSE Linux kernel. So as new versions of OES come out (or, more likely, it’s simply subsumed into SuSE Linux Enterprise Server) those utilities and tools represent the value-add that Novell brings to Linux which, in turn, justifies the price they ask to license and support it.

Open source NetWare would (if it were to be meaningful) need all the tools and utilities we’re familiar with. But that would undermine Novell’s ability to charge for those items in the OES package. That’s just not going to happen.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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