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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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  • Mono (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Burb ( 620144 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:33AM (#9705183)
    It's an interesting point of view expressed in the article. But although it mentions Miguel de Icaza, there's no mention of Mono. Not that there necessarily has to be a mention of Mono, of course, but it struck me as a strange omission. I'm very interested in the mono project and I got the impression that it was regarded as quite significant to Novell alongside the other Linux-type offerings.
  • by eadz ( 412417 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:42AM (#9705228) Homepage
    They have something RedHat don't, sales offices world wide. They are really pushing the linux message, and are more free software (in beer and freedom) than the pre-Novell SuSE was : open source yast, free downloads for SuSE 9.1. Also they are porting most of their applications to run on linux.
  • The company I'm at now is mostly a .NET shop, but with a handful of skunkworks linux/mono projects going on, either as prototypes or proofs-of-concept.

    One if these was discussed with a rather large customer (government) who was surprised and very favoribly impressed to hear that the product was based on "Novell's Linux, and Novell's implementation of .NET".

    Their core infrastructure - many dozens of offices across the state - is all based on Novell, who they have a lot of confidence in. I think there's a good chance they'll be wanting the "Novell .NET" solution when we ship the final product.

  • by thewldisntenuff ( 778302 ) * on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:49AM (#9705257) Homepage
    The open source heroes I know aren't Novell...Try PJ with Groklaw or all the linux-zealot /.-ers...(Yes, me included :) ) A better title needed indeed....

    Anywho, if anything, I see SuSE and open source being Novell's savior, although it's previous history does not seem to indicate so...With the quality and issues with Fedora/Red Hat, SuSE has a remote (remote damn it, don't you all jump my @$$ for saying there are problems with Fedora, if you don't believe me, read previous /. posts about such issues) chance of taking the Linux lead. Novell/SuSE has had some successes recently (McDonalds, others, it's late and I won't bother to search) With the article stating 8/10 companies looking to upgrade in 04-05, it just might happen......

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

    by ron_ivi ( 607351 ) <(sdotno) (at) (> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @04:55AM (#9705278)
    When I say "Red Hat" what do you think of first?
    When I say "Novell" what do you think of first?

    But which company is worth more?

    Surprisingly, they're both about exactly the same. 2.71Billion for Novell and 2.76 Billion for Red Hat according to Yahoo Finance today.

    Not that market-cap means a lot, but it was surprising to me. I suspect it surprises both groups - open source fans will be surprised to see the "failed network company" be worth so much - especially considering Red Hat was once worth 10X as much. And I suspect old-school-corporate types would be surprized to see a bunch of Linux hippies being worth as much as a giant like Novell.

  • by buckhead_buddy ( 186384 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:02AM (#9705304)
    If Novell's products (Netware, WordPerfect, etc) were to be judged strictly on technical merits, how would they fare? Would an OpenSource Netware unburdened by ip restrictions and large implementation costs be widely adopted?

    If these would be greatly beneficial and widely adopted, it seems odd that they haven't been more aggressively developed by Novell.

    If their exit from the marketplace is a blessing in disguise, then it seems almost inevitable that Novell had to find a different product line or revenue stream.

    Novell hasn't really been one of the vendors that I followed (due to their poor mac compatabilities) back in the dark ages of proprietary software so I'm very open to opinions of others on these matters.
  • Re:Effective? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stripyd ( 614714 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:05AM (#9705313)
    When I say "Novell" what do you think of first?

    that "failed network company" who still pulled in over a billion dollars in revenue last year, and whose massive deployments now look like having an upgrade path to GNU/Linux? :-)

    What do we think of when we say "SuSE"?

    I'm sure there's many people who are happy they haven't started branding "Novell Enterprise Linux". "Entwicklung" is such a great word...

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

    by AVee ( 557523 ) <slashdot&avee,org> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:20AM (#9705364) Homepage
    Evidence? When I say "Red Hat" what do you think of first?

    Linux company, one in a dozen, happens to be the biggest.

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

    Technically superior, way underappreciated.

    At least, thats what I think.
    I feel Novell is technically better than RedHat. The application support and the customers just aren't there. Anyone who has used Novell seriously will agree that there is no equivalent to GroupWise, ZENWorks or eDirectory on the Linux platform and there are only lower quality alternatives for the windows platform. Bringing this to Linux could make Linux it a serious option for larger companies...
  • Re:Effective? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:22AM (#9705373) Homepage
    Evidence? When I say "Red Hat" what do you think of first? When I say "Novell" what do you think of first?

    Eh? what does this have to do with the price of cheese? Novell Inc has been around since 1979 - Linus was still running around in shorts then.

    Most folk probably think of Novell as a rather large company specialising in networking software - that's exactly what they are. They like linux because it's an alternative to Microsoft, and over in the Microsoft world there's a bigger company trying to sell copycat versions of many of Novell's programs. In the linux world there's a lot of demand for enterprise grade networking and groupware software.

    When you think of IBM, does Jo Bloggs think of a Linux company? I wouldn't expect so - they too like linux because it fits in with their core products and strategies.

    Novell are a major Linux company now because they own SuSE and Ximian. Now they are Linux companies, they just happen to be subsidiaries of Novell Inc.

  • Re:Mono (Score:1, Interesting)

    by quigonn ( 80360 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:28AM (#9705392) Homepage
    Isn't portage the stuff where the source is downloaded and then compiled? Sorry, but this is way too time-consuming. Why spend significant amounts of time for compiling when your Linux distributor can do that for you. And no, "optimized" compilations (like many Gentoo people do them []) usually don't have any measurable performance improvements.
  • by Twid ( 67847 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:31AM (#9705397) Homepage
    As an ex-Novell employee (pre-SuSE acquisition), I think Novell still has a lot of restructuring to do.

    Before the SuSE and Ximian acquisition, Novell was going to focus on "web services" and spent a lot of money on a merger with Cambridge Technology Partners and an acquisition of Silverstream. Now, with Ximian they get Mono as well, but I don't really see a coherent revenue stream strategy coming out of Mono/Silverstream/SuSE (yet). Novell has a staggering product list right now.

    There are:
    - All of the old pre-Linux products like NetWare, from when Novell's strategy was network operating systems
    - All of the identity products like eDirectory from when Novell's strategy was identity management
    - The ZENworks product line for desktop and server management
    - Four, count 'em, four different collaboration products, all from different sources (GroupWise, NetMail, Evolution, OpenExchange)
    - The KDE-based SuSE Linux and the Gnome-based Ximian Desktop
    - The rebranded Silverstream app server along with Mono

    It's really quite a mess, and I haven't yet seen any strategy to clean it up. Novell's company page still pitches the "One Net" vision, which is a holdover from the Eric Schmidt-as-CEO days. I'd like to see a strategy for how Novell is going to bring all this together.

    I'm still a Novell stockholder and I wish Novell the best of luck, I'd just like a little more clarity about how this is all going to come together.

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

    by Errtu76 ( 776778 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:49AM (#9705456) Journal
    Actually, when i think about Novell, i think about Ximian (and especially Evolution) and how that piece of software can become much better/bigger/worth more. I'm looking forward to the 2.0 release, which features (from the site):

    * integrated connectivity to Novell GroupWise
    * integrated connectivity to Microsoft Exchange
    * improved offline support for IMAP accounts
    * numerous calendar improvements,
    * support for S/MIME, enhanced contact management
    * Gaim instant messaging integration
    * Improved desktop integration

    Especially the integration with MS Exchange is somewhat unique for a linux application. If Novell can provide a linux-based desktop that integrates perfectly with a MS Windows environment, then they are a step ahead of RH&Co and are close to becoming (at least my) Open Source Hero.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2004 @05:52AM (#9705462)
    Grandparent wrote: "Novell's Linux ...Novell's .NET"
    Perent wrote: "some mexican kid...'s hobby...Deb and Ian's Unstable OS [Debian/Unstable]"

    Funny? Seems more insightful.

    This amateur image is probably the biggest problem with Linux in the workplace today. It's also IMHO the most valuable thing that Novell can bring to Linux. Novell having (developing/supporting/backing) a linux distro means even more to business than IBM doing peace-love-linux-graffiti-vandalism. Finally a Linux from a vendor my upper management will trust.

  • I never really had a use for Novell servers before - they were the 'ugly legacy black boxes' I usually was tasked with removing and replacing before this recent change in direction.

    Now, Groupwise, Nterprise, Red Carpet Enterprise, Ximian Desktop and SuSe, in a tight package, intended to scale seamlessly all the way up and down the enterprise, all backed by a company with considerable name recognition and cash, and has been defending ground against MS for decades?

    This sounds like it could be a killer combination - something that could provide a significant challenge to MS, in a relatively short time.

    One thing I don't knoww about Novell - are they known to treat thier customers (or even the general market) reasonably well? I know there is an ancient SCO relationship, but not one that would indicate they support the current regime or direction over there, correct?
  • by terrencefw ( 605681 ) <slashdot&jamesholden,net> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @06:09AM (#9705502) Homepage
    Novell (specifically Mark McManus and Simon Lidgett) came this week and outlined their Linux strategy in a talk to our LUG, WYLUG [].

    They seem to be pretty fired up about stuff. Their next generation product will be "Open Enterprise Server", which can run either on Netware or Linux as a base OS.

    They seem very into cross-platform and compatibility, in particular with respect to authentication, single sign-on and all that.

  • Re:Is Ximian dead? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by salimma ( 115327 ) * on Thursday July 15, 2004 @06:27AM (#9705539) Homepage Journal
    You could hardly expect them to continue packaging Ximian Desktop, at least for other platforms. Now that Novell owns its own Linux distro why would it be packaging a GNOME desktop for its competitors? Besides, Red Hat/Fedora has quite a nice GNOME desktop set-up; and packaging for Debian is rather hard since most of their desktop users are not staying with the stable Debian 3.0.

    It would be quite interesting to see if they pull the same move on SuSE and call the next Linux release 'Novell Linux X' or something similar though. I'm curious to see what the desktop'd look like, having heard claims that it would bring the best of both KDE and GNOME together.
  • by Akimotos ( 747459 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @06:31AM (#9705550)
    their loyalty. Let me explain. Back in the '90s I ran a salesdepartment of a big IT shop with big customers. All my salesguys worked on a basic pay, with a great bonus. Then came the millennium saga ....
    They all got training .. you can upgrade this application with this update and that application with that upgrade. All my guys made the quotation on their customers: what are they running now and how am I going to make the most money out of their upgrade.
    More than one of those guys earned a second home just by upgrading its customers to Windows. Why Windows? Because Microsoft forced customers into buying whole new license packs, with new software. Even customers running older versions of Windows. It were the days that we simply couldn't find enough people to install and implement upgrades. Microsoft couldn't even ship CD's, licenses and boxes fast enough. In the end we did complete conversions from blanc CD's and provided the customer with its formal material later. And crew was even worse: we sent whole groups of 'people_handy_with_computers' off to South Africa where we bought MCSE documents, just to be able to put them on jobs in Europe...
    Oh, and Novell? They simply produced upgrades, even for aging versions of their OS, like 3.12 and such. Each upgrade was about $200 (or something) with which you could make your server OS millennium proof. 3.x went to 3.2 and 4.x went to 4.2. And that was it... my Novell guys just sold a handful of CD's, didn't earn a second home on bonusses, but scored a ten on customer satifaction. And the problem was that Novell informed all customers about the possibility. My guys simply didn't have the opportunity to scale 'm up from 3.x to 4.2 or even version 5.... every customer was already informed about the $200 update kit for the 3 and 4 series.
    Since most salesguys don't have a heart or basically don't care about quality (it's just about the bonus), they simply advised customers to ignore the opdate: it's better switching to Windows... you see, I have a second mortgage to pay ...
    It was terrible to see such a nice product becoming a victim of its customer loyalty, especially since the Windows customers simply didn't (and still don't) see that they are being toyed with.
    And I? I left the circus in September 1999 on 'matters of principle' ....
  • by darnok ( 650458 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @06:34AM (#9705555)
    Release OpenExchange as open source.

    In many sites, Exchange is the one MS product that is irreplaceable infrastructure. I know, alternatives exist, but plugging together 12 different pieces of FOSS with differing licences isn't something that a lot of IT departments are comfortable with. They'd rather live with their regularly unscheduled Exchange outages, thanks very much!

    If OpenExchange was free, it would go close to being a drop-in replacement for MS Exchange. With a company the size of Novell behind it, it would be a much easier sell to those companies than plugging together a bunch of FOSS server products, most with no big vendor behind them.

    Novell would get a *lot* of mind-share in these organizations, as they'd be the enablers for getting MS out of their core infrastructure once and for all. I'd bet they could leverage this mindshare when it came time to upgrade those desktops as well.

    Well, Novell, what are you waiting for?
  • by managementboy ( 223451 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @06:55AM (#9705630) Homepage
    I believe Novell has a good standing to start to win back small and medium business, as long as they can show how these porblems get resolved through their offerings:

    * Licencing cost are low(er) compared with rivals
    * Costs due to Viri don't exist in Novell's SuSE offerings (business men know this problem first hand)
    * Costs due to Spam get significantly reduced due to Novells SuSE offerings (business men know this problem)
    * Security is inherently high (business men know this problem)
    * Single signon and other Directory services are good for business (business men know this problem)
    * OpenOffice is free and compatible (free is allways good, as long as you get support... Novell enters the stage)
    * Novell removes the nerdy part of Linux and makes it business man friendly

    These are not technical arguments. They would be the ones I would use to convice any owner of a small or medium business to use Novell's products in an upgrade cycle (from win95, from Oracle 8, from IE5 etc.).
  • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) * on Thursday July 15, 2004 @07:42AM (#9705814) Homepage Journal
    Yep, this is going to be a big deal. I did some NLM (Novell Loadable Module) development for a while, and it was a really crappy environment to work in. One of the reasons people started throwing Windows boxes into the server racks.

    And it's not just developers, it's also all the back-office tech guys that have been around since Novell owned the LAN. They know how much more difficult it is supporting a lot of Windows boxes than it is a lot of Netware boxes (plus you don't need as many). So these guys are now thinking maybe they can reduce some of those clunky Windows machines with Novell/Linux/SuSE alternatives.

    The big hope is that those .NET developers (often pushed into that environment by gullible managers) can deploy those apps on Mono. Lots of folks see IIS (whether justified or not) as major vulnerability, security wise. From my experience, deploying an IIS installation that is both secure and will support everything the developers need is a major challenge. If Novell can make it happen with SuSE/Apache/Mono, they would have a lot of fans.

  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @08:27AM (#9706070)
    No actually the web services arm is one of the most important parts of the puzzle. I work in a manufacturing company and we run linux thin client desktops on the entire shop floor. This would just not have ever been a option if it had not been for a single web service we built that converts autocad drawings to pdf files for viewing at the workstations. Web services is a great way to get that little extra functionality available to the linux machines. Most of the cad stuff is only available on windows, I had no option but to render drawings using windows servers.

    We use web services for plenty of other stuff but if you need to do cross platform integration there is nothing sweeter.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2004 @09:21AM (#9706465)
    My how soon you forget.

    Novell 'has been a hero' years ago when they came to a settlement in the USL vs BSDI lawsuit, freeing the BSD source tree for anyone to use. The settlement had little to do with 'sticking a finger in Microsoft's eye', whereas Linux support today is all about the eye gouging.

    What would be interesting is a 'map' of the managers from back then to now. The points that are common may be the allies.

    Additional points to someone who adds a 'map' of the Canopy Group to search for 'common' points - what with their formation of the Linux company Caldera who bought out SCO then renamed themselves to SCO.
  • by Akimotos ( 747459 ) on Thursday July 15, 2004 @11:09AM (#9707504)
    Basically the situation is even worse .... here in Europe most people's salary is based on the number of people in their team. The bigger the number, the bigger their salary.
    So, if your salary is based on your team of 9 people that service 35 servers and 120 desktops, why would you start thinking of an alternative situation in which you can do the same with 4 people or even less .... in most situations you end up ripping off yourself ....
    I know this is a terribly message, but right now a lot of those such called IT managers are being paid because they waste money.
    Hardly anyone gets fired on overspending on MS based solutions including overpriced maintenance. Hardly anyone gets rewarded for picking a cheaper solution that gives someone more uptime and productivity.
    I have a customer running 4000 servers. Most of them MS stuff, some Unix (RS 6000), some Linux, some solaris and -yes- a few Netware. If we talk about platform with the IT director, he is always talking about MS, MS, MS ... while the average uptime of those w2k servers is barely 100 days. On the other hand, the Novell servers have an average uptime of 970 days. They even run an old 3.2 machine with an uptime of over 1500 days!
    Can you imagine that the day is coming on which the IT manager involved is being rewarded for the fact that he finally got rid of that old Novell stuff.... (I think here in Holland I pay 1.5% taxes just to pay for all that MS crap).
  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Thursday July 15, 2004 @11:16AM (#9707588) Homepage
    Not even in the "Deep Dark Places". When Novell announced the purchases of SuSE and Ximian, they said they were planning strategic partnerships with IBM. I think the aquisitions were even partially funded with IBM money.

    Personally, I've thought for some time that the behind-the-scenes plotting is really over the desktop. Like you said, no one cares what their servers are running, so long as they can access the services they want from the desktop. But more than that, no one cares what their DESKTOP is running, so long as they can access the services they want and they have the applications they need.

    One of the threats to Linux on the desktop is, ok, you make the Ximian Exchange connector, but MS can change the Exchange server and make the connector stop working. You can make Samba improve desktop access to a Win2K network, but when Windows Server 200? comes, they can change the SMB protocol a little and force Samba to play catch-up. So, IBM and Novell work together to make the switch-over from Windows2K networks to Novell-based networks nearly trivial. They then work together to make the Desktop switch to Linux nearly trivial, which should be easier if you control the servers.

    But why would IBM want Linux on the desktop so badly? Because once Linux is on the desktop, switching to a PPC based architecture is nearly trivial. If IBM wants to be a player in the Desktop processor market, essentially taking on Intel with the equivalent to the G5, they need to go through Microsoft to get support. Unless, that is, people are running Linux, which already has support for PowerPC.

    It's a bit of a conspiracy theory, with absolutely nothing to back it up, but I have a hard time believing that no one at IBM has realized the possibility.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 15, 2004 @12:13PM (#9708179)
    Novell owns SUSE, so I'm guessing that makes them #2.

    I don't have a link to back up the claim that SUSE is #2. I'm surprised IBM isn't #2, actually. Since IBM doesn't have distro of their own, I guess they don't count?
  • The SUSE distro is ok but hasn't really changed since the Novell takeover.

    Huh? If you don't see any difference between suse 9.0 and suse 9.1, you're not looking.

    Suse 9.0 was a nice distro, one I could have lived with, but I stuck with redhat (and fedora). When 9.1 came out, it was so good I simply had to switch to suse - and have been doing so, on my desktops, and servers.

    BTW netcraft shows that in the past month, redhat has lost web server market share and suse, the 2nd distro, has gained ground. I expect the trend to continue.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982