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Why Novell’s SuSE Linux purchase is good news all round

Nov 17, 20034 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

* Novell strengthens the Linux story (as well as its own)

Ever since Novell bought Ximian this past summer, I have been anxious to write about what a great thing this is for Linux customers.  And for Novell, too, I might add.  I felt like that acquisition was a turning point for Linux on the desktop – combining Ximian’s terrific Linux technology with Novell’s prowess for churning out great enterprise products.

The Ximian story seemed to round out an already good strategy on Novell’s part to make its bread-and-butter products like eDirectory and ZENworks available for the Linux platform.  While many people still thought of Novell as “that NetWare company,” it was quietly becoming a “cross-platform” company, with many products working on NetWare, Linux or Windows.  Soon Novell will offer all of its traditional NetWare services – file, print, directory, storage, messaging, collaboration, resource management, Web development and others – on both the NetWare and the Linux kernels.

But if I liked the Novell foray into Linux before, I’m really loving it now.  On Nov. 4, Novell announced its intention to buy the world’s No. 2 distributor of Linux software, German company SuSE Linux.  Plus, IBM agreed to inject $50 million into Novell at the close of the SuSE purchase.  If this doesn’t legitimize Linux and Novell as a premier Linux solutions provider, nothing will.  In my opinion, the market-watchers at Microsoft need to take notice of these happenings, as this will mount a serious challenge to Microsoft’s server business before too long.

This series of acquisitions (which also includes Silverstream Software in 2002), as well as the cross-platform expansion of home grown products, make Novell one of the leading players in the enterprise Linux market.  The company now claims to be “the first and only end-to-end solutions company for the enterprise delivering the full stack of Linux solutions and services.”  Some of that statement might be hyperbole, but one thing’s for sure – if you haven’t talked with Novell lately, it’s time to talk to the company now.  And if you’ve had a fear of Linux, it’s time to put that fear aside.

In a March 2003, Forrester Research conducted a survey of 50 companies in the billion dollar-plus range, asking their thoughts about Linux. A full 46% of the respondents said their biggest concern about Linux and open source software was lack of support.  Almost a third said the immaturity of products scares them.  Other concerns include the insecurity of Linux, and the lack of skilled workers to support the platform.

Novell is attacking all of those concerns head-on.  As for lack of support, Novell has said it will fully support every Linux product it offers, from the server on down to the desktop.  As for the immaturity of products, Novell is porting or already has ported some of its most venerable products to Linux, including GroupWise (messaging/collaboration) and ZENworks (systems management).  Even the Ximian desktop, known as XD2, is relatively mature in the Linux world.  Security?  Novell has some of the best tools in the industry to ensure network security.  Skilled workers?  Novell offers the Certified Linux Engineer professional certification, with complete training to prepare the candidate for certification.

Of course, Novell isn’t an island when it comes to a good Linux strategy; partners are important too.  IBM has shown its faith with the promise of its $50 million investment.  I’m guessing at least some of that cash will go to compatibility testing to make sure Novell’s SuSE Linux is fully optimized for IBM’s eSeries of Linux servers, and to the integration of applications and tools from the two companies.  IBM’s stamp of approval of the SuSE acquisition is a key endorsement for Novell.

There’s no doubt Linux has been growing in popularity as it reaches deeper into the enterprise.  And Novell’s latest moves will “Nsure” that trend continues.


Special quote of the week: “The toilet is a mystery to me. How the water stays at the same level. Why you have to jiggle the handle sometimes and sometimes not.” – actor William Shatner, a.k.a., Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise (see

Linda Musthaler is vice president of Currid & Company.  You can write to her at