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Novell sends mixed messages about Linux

Nov 20, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

* Novell has two different stories about Linux and NetWare

Ted Schadler, principal analyst at Forrester Research, thinks Novell’s acquisitions of SuSE and Ximian are “a good deal for firms and governments that are looking for an open-source alternative to Unix and Windows.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Schadler declares these acquisitions to be major milestones which will be known as the turning point for Linux adoption in the enterprise.

According to his report, Novell with SuSE provides better worldwide field support than Red Hat, while Novell with SuSE and Ximian provides a better desktop alternative to Windows than Sun’s Java Desktop. It apparently goes without saying that Novell with SuSE provides a better datacenter alternative than Windows.

Schadler and his group at Forrester spent time with Novell Chief Marketing Officer Debra Bergevine, CTO Alan Nugent, and General Manager for Novell Resource Management David Patrick, and seemed to really like what they heard.

But even among all this good feeling, there was the appearance of at least one sour note. Not that Forrester suggested it was sour, but here’s what the research firm said: “Running NetWare? Linux is ready to take over. During the next two years, Novell’s gigantic and loyal NetWare installed base should move file and print workloads and most network-based applications to Windows or Linux.”

Two years, of course, is the lead time until NetWare 7 ships.

Meanwhile, NetWare Product Manager Rob Seely was saying, according to Computerworld Australia’s Julian Bajkowski, that “contrary to rumours that Novell was planning to dump its proprietary NetWare kernel in favour of Linux, the networking heavyweight would allow customers to choose which operating system they preferred, ruling out any forced march to open source for existing customers.”

So which is it? Should we all be deeply involved in planning our migration to Linux or can we count on our NetWare servers (and not some hybrid “NetWare on Linux” box) to run our networks for the foreseeable future? Novell still seems to be trying to straddle the fence on this question. The company tells NetWare loyalists (as Seely did) that “NetWare will always be with you,” implying NetWare as we’ve always known it. At the same time, they’re telling analysts like Forrester’s Schadler that NetWare managers need to get moving on their conversion to Linux.

I don’t think most of us really mind which direction the company takes, just that we’d like to know what that direction is so we can better plan the future for our networks and enterprises. If we’re going to be moving to Linux, then we need to start preparing now. While I don’t expect a definitive statement out of Provo or Waltham, the words CEO Jack Messman used in a recent New York Times interview could be a major clue. Said Messman, “Now that we’ve got the migration path lined up, we are going to have a much broader following.”