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NetWare and the question of Linux

Apr 24, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

* Novell CEO reveals NetWare will have two "flavors"

Last week, I defended Chris Stone from the accusation that he had predicted the death of NetWare. He claimed he was misquoted, and I believed him. But I won’t do the same for Jack Messman this week, because I heard Messman’s words with my own ears.

At last week’s BrainShare conference, Novell chairman and CEO Jack Messman gave attendees a sneak preview of NetWare 7 (even though NetWare 6.5 hasn’t yet shipped) and revealed that it would come in two “flavors” – the traditional NetWare kernel as well as a new Linux kernel. Few details of the Linux kernel were released except that it would ship in the 18 to 24 month time frame (second or third quarter of 2005).

Novell has been porting many of its applications and services to non-NetWare platforms for years – eDirectory, ZENworks, even GroupWise currently run on, or have roadmaps showing when they will run on other, non-NetWare platforms. So announcing that NetWare utilities and services (such as iPrint) will “run on” Linux is not a big idea. A new Linux distribution, based on the Linux core with all of NetWare’s accoutrements is a big announcement.

Messman hoped to reassure the NetWare faithful by claiming there would be two versions of NetWare 7, but how long will the stockholders put up with that? No, the real clue as to what is happening was Messman’s rationale for the Linux version. He claimed that NetWare users were looking for a “mature migration path.” To me, that means that everyone Jack knows is moving away from NetWare and he’d like to keep them from going to Windows or Solaris. After all, a migration is defined as the movement of people or animals (especially birds and fish) from one country or locality to another. Evidently Messman and the Cambridge Cognoscenti believe that NetWare users are ready to pack up and move somewhere else.

But if an enterprise really wants to move to Linux without giving up the best parts of NetWare, there’s no need to wait two years. ZENworks, eDirectory – even GroupWise – either already run on Linux platforms or will before NetWare 7 ever ships. In fact, if enterprises are stampeding to migrate from NetWare, why would they even take a glance at NetWare 6.5?

Regular readers know that I’ve never been a fan of Messman, but shareholders should start asking the board of directors how long they can afford a chairman and CEO who sells against his own company.

The last time Novell felt that its customer base was looking to a Unix variant as a platform, it rolled out the vaporware called “SuperNOS.” Come back next time for that interesting story and the parallels we can draw.