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Novell as Open Source Hero? 283

ccnull writes "Who's the #2 Linux vendor in the world? Would you believe Novell? Infoworld takes a look at this long-struggling giant and how it has (and hasn't) reinvented itself as an open source company in the face of utterly losing the LAN market to Microsoft." The piece argues: "But even though it seems to be holding all the right cards, Novell faces tough odds. In recent years, tough competition from Microsoft and dwindling support from third-party developers have caused Novell's once-loyal base to look elsewhere for infrastructure needs. Unless it can win back the loyalty of the industry, Novell's new, Linux-centric message could fall on deaf ears."
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Novell as Open Source Hero?

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  • Effective? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by deutschemonte ( 764566 ) <lane.montgomery@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:34AM (#9705190) Homepage
    Something about Novell's push to be a Linux/OSS company has not been effective.

    Evidence? When I say "Red Hat" what do you think of first? When I say "Novell" what do you think of first?

    They really need to get to the point where people instantly think "Linux company" instead of "failed network company" when they hear the Novell name.
  • Re:Effective? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dorward ( 129628 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:38AM (#9705209) Homepage Journal

    When I say "Red Hat" what do you think of first? When I say "Novell" what do you think of first?

    They really need to get to the point where people instantly think "Linux company" instead of "failed network company" when they hear the Novell name.

    Give it time. Red Hat has

    • Been doing Linux a lot longer
    • Has never been anything but a Linux company

    Besides - some of their brands do get people instantly thinking "Linux company".

  • Re:Effective? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by welshwaterloo ( 740554 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:39AM (#9705213)
    This change of mindshare is never going to happen overnight though.. Things are still changing apace at Novell - changing all their desktops to Linux, making the next generation of Netware (and *alllll* their other software available on Linux.)

    I wish them all the best.

  • Is Ximian dead? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ablaze ( 222561 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:39AM (#9705214) Journal
    Ximian is dying a slow dead after Novell has acquired it last year:
    The next version of Evolution is called "Novell Evolution", their Website is redirected to Novell and there hasn't been any significant update to Ximian Desktop for a while. XD2 is the only product labelled "Ximian" anyways.
    I really would love to see some kind of roadmap or at least some kind of statement about Ximian Desktop. (As Novell provided for Evolution and Mono).

    After they acquired Ximian they talked about keeping Ximian together and their products still being worked on. As I see it this is not the case and I feel very sad to lose Ximian eventually.
  • by Quirk ( 36086 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:44AM (#9705242) Homepage Journal
    The article points out the crux of the situation.

    "...the developer community has pretty much abandoned them."
    "...With the shift in focus to Linux, Novell gains a huge developer base and not just from the open source community. Commercial vendors that support their products on Linux become selling points as well."

    Steve Ballmer's famous hissy fit over the trial and tribulations of keeping developers happy spoke to Microsoft's efforts to keep developers on board. Ah they're such a fickle bunch. But the move to open source seems to be a good ploy to bring onboard an entire active community.

  • by miffo.swe ( 547642 ) <daniel.hedblom@g m a> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:49AM (#9705261) Homepage Journal
    Novell has mostly been geek centric while Microsoft has gone straight for the boss (who often dont give a rats behind about what the techies say). I think Novell needs to change its strategy and start making its name with the bosses too. Why not measure ROI and TCO on Novell vs. Windows? A real comparison where things like viruses and the likes is taken into the calculation. Then an ad campaign touting how much it costs to stay on Microsoft compared to migrating. Nothing appeals to managers and bosses like money.

    Here in sweden most people dont even know what novell is even if most of them have been working on it, they just think its some extension to their workstation. Novell needs to get the word out to common people and not just us techies. We dont decide much nowadays (we bitch and moan but it isnt our call in the end).
  • Re:SUSE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by toofanx ( 679091 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:14AM (#9705344) Journal
    Yes, that could well be the only reason they are #2 at something. This is also mentioned in the article. Apparently happened quite recently - Jan 2004.

    What worries me is that acquisitions tend to have lots of problems. I myself was working in a .com that got acquired by a .bomb. It was a terrible experience. It would be a pity if SuSE went that way. We need to watch SuSE for the next year or so, and see what happens.

    I would really hate it if Red Hat becomes the undisputed champion of open source. I do not hate Red Hat, but I dislike "undisputed champions".
  • by DrSoCold ( 703785 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:18AM (#9705356)
    Let's not be too hasty in cursing novel here. Remember, this is a long established company with a billion dollars in cash and no debts. Unlike Microsoft, Novell is a company that is very much in touch with it's community and always has been. Microsoft takes your cash, ships you a pony product then kicks you in the balls whilst the bells of the cash register ring. I have met so many Novell experts over the years who love the company and love the products and actually solved problems using them. Brainshare, Cool solutions, CNE, classic Novell stuff. I have never met a proper Microsoft expert and don't know if any exist. People tend to just support Windows 'cos it's an easy way to get a job' not because they love it and believe in the technology and the company. Novell breeds die hards, so does Linux, it's a match made in heaven, give it a chance.
  • Re:Effective? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hdparm ( 575302 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:34AM (#9705409) Homepage
    Although this would seem outrageously radical move, it could actually work better than a long known brand name which became a symbol of failure. They were pretty agressive with aquisitions in open source world, why not just apply that on the marketing level?

    I wish them well. More strong Linux/OSS companies can only be good for overall computing experience.

  • Re:Gentoo (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jobsagoodun ( 669748 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:38AM (#9705424)
    For me, it hasn't been optimization, but ease of use. I can't count the number of times with RedHat or Suse when I've wanted (for example) Apache+PHP+DB2+SSL or something, and its a right arse about if the distro designers didn't anticipate it and you have to get the source code anyhow, and configure it all by hand. With gentoo, I've found its much easier to get packages to play together nicley.
  • Quattro Pro (Score:0, Insightful)

    by tobyp ( 10493 ) * on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:38AM (#9705426)
    Not sure how much credence I'd give an article which claims the Quattro Pro *spreadsheet* program is in fact a database....
  • by w1r3sp33d ( 593084 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @06:14AM (#9705512)
    I hope everyone realizes how important this point is. I work for a large consulting firm that deploys mostly ms servers, with a little red hat as required by our clients. Every engineer has at least one version of linux running on their laptop, as well as several sales and even management types. Nearly every engineer has at least a little novell experience and generally trusts the company (unlike ms who screws you over on lic, security, and bad updates) because novell always released a finished product (except netware 5.0 but I think most of us have forgiven them.) They are a nos company with a mainframe like mindset when it comes to product development, yes I think that is a VERY good thing for the people who depend on it. Now that novell is onboard many of us are switching (or adding because you will never get my slackware!) suse to our machines and following the news on novells other products being offered for linux servers, this will become our go to market strategy. I have not seen any reason to create a linux arm for the firm come from the red hat camp, but novell clearly does.
  • Re:Mono (Score:2, Insightful)

    by k98sven ( 324383 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @06:38AM (#9705568) Journal
    Well, Miguel helped create Gnome and Midnight Commander too, didn't see them mentioned either..

    Seriously though, I don't think Mono is that important, yet. The main reason, I believe, for buying Ximian was their Desktop and Connector products, whereas the Mono part was a strategic investment.

  • Caveat ! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @07:15AM (#9705713) Homepage Journal
    There is a caveat in the ranking of Linux vendors: Novell is No.2 if you don't count IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which probably sell most of the Linux software going into the enterprise market.

    loc. cit. []: "If Linux is free, why's it so expensive?"

    Good point. Think about it. Think if the system as it works really is a s free as intended.

  • Re:Effective? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @07:42AM (#9705817)
    And don't forget handling an alternative user mailbox directory, the "~/mail" setting necessary to make IMAP play nice with pine run locally on the IMAP server.
  • Re:Effective? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PaulusMagnus ( 797138 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @07:56AM (#9705873)
    I do agree that Novell's branding is atrocious. Even at the height of their supremacy nobody really knew Novell's name, their logo or what they did. It was like being Seagate, techies knew them, ordinary people didn't know and a lot of IT purchasing then and now is still done by people with limited technical knowledge. Just as it was "safe" to buy IBM in the 80s, it's now "safe" to buy Microsoft.

    I've been around Netware for 12 years and CNE'd from v3 to v6. They set the standards for certification, which everybody else has now copied. You also needed to know your stuff to get the CNE, something that isn't necessary for MCSE. I know because I got my first MCSE (on NT) from reading books and never touching the OS.

    There are, allegedly, millions of Netware users out there. Having been involved in large Netware and MS environments the idea of scaling AD to work across the world on a 30,000 user system frightens me to death. I know I can do it with NDS but the flexibility of AD isn't there and would be highly unstable and be far more support intensive. The kludges Microsoft use to get their software to work is a pain to support but it looks nice and has a setup wizard so people get sucked in.

    Therefore, I see that Novell's move into Linux is a very good thing as it gives an option for these large global networks to move from Netware/Intel to Linux.

    Most people in IT also except that Linux is going to arrive, one day. However, the supportability of Linux is the downside of any corporate installation. Now we have Novell's support infrastructure backing Linux, everything is perfectly positioned for Linux to enter the corporate marketplace. I, for one, intend to certify in the Linux direction so that I can ride the crest of this wave as I'm confident that Netware to Linux migrations will increase in popularity and that in a few years time we'll have AD/Win2003 to Linux migrations happening.
  • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @09:02AM (#9706308) Homepage Journal


    You remember, the nice directory service they brought out for Windows years ahead of Active Directory? MS simply vaporware pre-announced that AD would be coming and that spelt the death knell for NDS because anyone with a lot of Windows boxes wanted to make sure they had a "compatible solution" and the only way to guarantee that was to source from a sole supplier that already had them by the short hairs.

    Meanwhile, enterprise Linux could use some improvements in convenient, secure, scalable directory services. People testing prototype desktop Linux solutions want to move beyond the /etc/passwd and local home directory stage of life.

    As it stands, people managing Linux LANs limp along using NIS, maybe some cobbled together pieces of LDAP with PAM and kerberos.

    There's room for an enterprise level solution that could better support Linux LANs in corporate environments that would also play well with Windows boxes needing services.

    The NDS code base could be combined with Samba and other open source technologies to provide just that.

  • The Real Key (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Exter-C ( 310390 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @09:02AM (#9706311) Homepage
    The real key about the whole novell thing is its not just about the OS its about the services that run ontop of that OS. Linux is a fairly good platform that is becoming much more recognised as a corporate platform. Idealy with a Linux version they should also look at a *BSD port and really start to push into the UNIX market. I would suspect (and from my own experiences working in IT for over 10years) that most of the Novel customer base (big guys) alreaddy have a unix team managing other systems. This brings the TCO down as the staff are often alreaddy there.

    I personally in my corporate roll have been stuck with redhat, personally I use freebsd and slackware but the real issue is that with SuSe emerging out of its european bunker the market has reacted well so far.

    Good luck suse/novell..
  • by Chordonblue ( 585047 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @09:47AM (#9706702) Journal
    SuSE Linux. Simply awesome distro for the desktop, and great tools for Windows network connectivity. Smart move on Novell's part to buy this distro.

  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @09:52AM (#9706745)
    1. Find a way to live down their past. Alas, for many IT managers the very name Novell still conjures up the once-mighty NetWare and how that has fallen by the wayside as UNIX-based networking has taken over.

    2. Novell must do a major marketing push to show they are heavily committed to Linux that not only is aimed at the computer-literate crowd, but also to the general public. After all, one of the reasons why IBM succeeded as a huge user of Linux was not only the over US$1 billion IBM spent to port Linux to run on S/390 and AS/400 big iron hardware, but also the fact IBM did a masterful job of publicizing this fact to non-computer literate types in a series of TV commercials shown worldwide.
  • by emtboy9 ( 99534 ) <> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @10:07AM (#9706893) Homepage
    I dont know, but just very simply, I am one of the people who does alpha and beta testing of SuSE/Novell linux, and if what I have seen so far is any indication, they have a LONG way to go before they can honestly claim any top 5 spot.

    Admittedly, YaST is a MUCH better installer than it used to be, and it is fine as a system configuration tool as well, but there are just so many little things that dont work right, and too many issues in the release cycle that are just plain annoying. BUT they are definitely getting better. I would almost dismiss most of my beef with them as integration pains as Novell takes the reins.

    Oh well, more power to them, I wish them well. We need more major linux players in the distro field (and no, Debian doesnt count, as it is not an enterprise OS).

    What linux needs, is a few more Red Hats or SuSEs in the enterprise OS market. Make competition between Distros increase and we will get better underlying OSs, even better development and innovation than we have now, more hardware vendors will start creating drivers, or releasing specs so that OSS developers can create drivers, more companies will take up Linux as their OS of choice, and so on and so forth.

    Right now we have a good start, but we really need more to get the momentum going. I would love to see another major player in the field, it would make MS sweat just that much more :)

  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cmason ( 53054 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @10:12AM (#9706935) Homepage
    If you look out there you might say "Well, Microsoft has 18 server installations to Novell's 3. Microsoft is winning." You'd be wrong.

    Yes, except, how many licenses did you have to buy? Who's really winning?

  • by EvilNight ( 11001 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @10:35AM (#9707159)
    *BAM* Home run.

    Novell was punished by its salesforce for doing exactly what its customers wanted.

    I think, these days, there is a growing awareness that the cash hemmorage of maintaining a Windows environment is not the only way to run an IT department. As departments grow wiser, they'll begin looking for solutions that are more like what Novell (and Linux) has always provided and less like what Microsoft is offering. After all, isn't Novell's style of product maintenance what everyone has been clamoring for lately, and incidentally almost exactly the same thing Linux provides by its very nature? It seems like a perfect match to me, especially with IBM thrown into the mix.

    Oh, don't overlook the fact that Novell has a grudge against Microsoft for trying to crush them for all these years... and so does IBM for the backstabbing Microsoft gave them long ago... oh and so do most Linux camps for various other reasons. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, especially when he's no real threat to my own business structure. This is a big deal, folks. I hear the sound of an army gathering its forces.

    There was a window for capitalizing on stupid users, techies, and managers, and while that will never completely go away, I think we're nearing the time when IT shops, in general, are finally beginning to wise up a little. Novell and Linux are on the radar.
  • by sneakers563 ( 759525 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @01:58PM (#9709343)
    I love Laura DiDio - like the Iraqi information minister, no matter what happens she stays on message. Novell is spending too much energy fighting the SCO lawsuit? Well gee, it only affects the future viability of their business plan. Why spend energy on that? On second thought, maybe this means Ms. DiDio has finally realized that there is nothing to the SCO suit after all. Why spend energy on something so obviously baseless? Naw, she's just a shill. Keep plugging away Ms. DiDio...

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.