With its $210 million acquisition of SuSE Linux behind it, Novell may be the largest Linux distribution vendor in the world. But do not tell that to Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone.
In fact, the last thing Stone wants is for Novell to become a Linux company. “That's just replacing ... one OS for another,” he said, referring to Novell’s NetWare OS at the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco last week. “That's a bad strategy.”
As the company kicks off its Novell BrainShare 2004 conference in Salt Lake City this week, customers will be looking to see where Novell is headed. Stone said the plan is to build a proprietary layer of management and directory services software on top of a Linux platform, but the company has not offered details about that or specified how it plans to integrate its SuSE, Novell, and Ximian software assets.
One asset, SuSE's Yast configuration management software, will no longer be part of that proprietary layer. This week the company will announce plans to release Yast under the open source GPL (GNU General Public License), a license Novell hopes will encourage Yast to be adopted as the standard Linux system management tool, much as Microsoft Metadirectory Services is for the Windows platform.
In its desire to avoid presenting itself as a newly minted Linux company, Novell may have missed an opportunity to present itself as a Linux leader, said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC. With the SuSE acquisition, “Linux is attached to … an organization that has been in the corporate computer room for years,” he said. “By being so quiet, they've effectively sidelined themselves, at least from a marketing perspective.”
Health care organization HealthFirst currently operates a mixed environment of NetWare, Windows, and Linux. The company enjoys the flexibility gained from early Linux deployments but is looking for more enterprise functionality before it pushes more toward open source, said Danny Wall, a network administrator at HealthFirst.
HealthFirst is encouraged by Novell's move into Linux because it “provides enterprise capabilities we need: desktop management and management in general of products -- and a company you can go to with problems,” Wall said.