BOSTON -- As part of its transition to an open-source software model, Novell Inc. will scale back its investment in some proprietary technology that competes with open-source alternatives, a company executive said Monday.
The company will make only minimal investments in its BorderManager VPN and other products in favor of open-source alternatives, as it tries to create a profitable blend of open- and closed-source products, said Alan Nugent, Novell's chief technology officer.
Speaking here before an audience of technology experts, systems administrators and open-source enthusiasts, Nugent voiced strong support for his company's decision to bundle its proprietary networking software with open-source products, and even envisioned a day when the Waltham, Massachusetts, company might sell only open-source technology, he said.
"Open source is the right way to develop software. (Novell) is still in the business of making proprietary software, and there are good business reasons for that, but as time goes on more and more will be open source. It's the way things are evolving," he said.
For Novell, moving to an open-source model forced changes in both the model it used to license its technology, and its traditional, "closed-source" business model based on "vendor lock-in," in which companies compete against each other to win customers, monopolize a given market, then sell new technologies into their existing customer base, he said.
To make money selling products that customers can also get for free, Novell is now concentrating on providing quality customer support and maintenance for its products, while targeting proprietary development in areas where there is a customer need, Nugent said.
The company is encouraging investment and development of proprietary technology in areas that can complement open-source initiatives such as storage networks and grid computing, identity management and resource management. At the same time, Novell will reduce its investment in technologies that have become "commoditized" by open-source or proprietary alternatives, or could be used to "substitute" for open-source products, he said.
The BorderManager virtual private networking (VPN) product is one example of technology that lies below what Nugent called "the value line," and in which Novell will be scaling back its investments. The company will continue to develop and support BorderManager, but may begin integrating open-source VPN components over time in a way that is transparent to BorderManager customers, Nugent said.
More Novell products will go the way of BorderManager, with Novell planning announcements for the upcoming LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in San Francisco in August, and the BrainShare Conference in Barcelona, Spain, in September, he said.
In areas "above the value line," where Novell sees the potential for profit, the goal is to focus on technologies in which no open-source alternatives exist and in which there isn't much interest from the open-source community, such as identity management and provisioning, he said.
When working in those areas, Novell will try to distinguish itself from competitors like IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. by making closed-source products that best coexist with those developed by the open-source community, he said.