Novell Inc. launched a public beta of Open Enterprise Server 2 that will run its proprietary NetWare as a virtual machine under the SUSE Linux kernel.
Novell president Ron Hovsepian, who took the helm following the departure of Jack Messman last year, made the announcement at the firm’s annual BrainShare conference, along with releases focusing on virtualization, interoperability and open source.
“We want enterprise-wide Linux adoption, from desktop to data centre, everything from the mainframe to point-of-sale terminals to thin clients, all based on the Linux code base,” Hovsepian said.
Lead analyst of IT research for Toronto-based consulting firm The Strategic Counsel Warren Shiau said the OES-NetWare strategy makes sense.
“OES was a big deal because it provided a path (to NetWare users). And now that path is much more concrete. They’ve ported over full NetWare functionality and are offering free training. This signals, in respect, that they should have fully covered their installation base and further defections are unlikely. That used to be a huge risk for them,” said Shiau.
This should counteract some of the problems that Andreas Bach, a Toronto-based network and e-mail consultant, said he sees with Novell’s product. In a pre-BrainShare interview he said, “They’ve probably lost a lot of customers having the existing product (NetWare) work so well. (Customers are) used to not buying new because of the low requirements. It’s Achilles heel is that it will run on whatever, which has slowed down adoption of new Novell technology: It’s like buying a toaster that never breaks.”
The new “toaster” boasts domain services for Windows. “This will allow users to put Linux servers in a mixed environment and access these environments without having to deploy a Novell client,” said Kent Erickson, Novell’s vice-president, workgroup solutions and identity and security management solutions. “And through Windows, you can manage access to Linux.”
The new program will also offer enhanced virtualization capabilities, operating on a split administration model. The program is also geared to offer cost savings through its dynamic storage technology that uses time-driven policies to cut down on stale old data, while still retaining the integrity of the information and user access.
Demos of virtualization showed how Windows XP, Windows 2003, SUSE Linux, and Longhorn could co-exist and a .txt file deleted on one would be deleted on the other environment. Another new product, Identity Manager 3.5, will allow people to use a single sign-on to access different directory systems (other features include much tighter authentication, greater ease of deployment and customization options). Novell also announced another addition to its identity and security management suite, Sentinel 6.0, which offers real-time automated monitoring and compliance reporting.
SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 Service Pack 1, Novell said, will feature enhanced virtualization and security capabilities, higher operational functionality, and high-performance computing capabilities. The new SUSE Linux Enterprise Thin Client, which can be hosted locally, on a server, or remotely, and its previously touted “cube” viewing structure has been expanded so that four sides of the cube can be seen. Also available is a way to “clone” your display so that you can drag it onto other monitors, and a magnification option that allows for closer examination (without any loss of clarity) of images.
Novell also announced Novell Teaming, and Novell Teaming + Conferencing, along with additions to its system and resource management suite, ZENworks 7.2 Linux Management and the previously announced ZENworks Configuration Management.
It was all sunshine and smiles when executives from Novell and Microsoft shared the keynote stage at the conference. But across the street from the convention centre a prominent open source advocate was singing a different tune.
The agreement between Microsoft and Novell announced last November aims to make Novell’s SUSE Linux the preferred Linux distribution for Windows networks, and includes technology interchange, joint marketing, and a US$240 million payment to Novell from Microsoft.
It also gives Novell customers preferential access to Microsoft’s patented technology, which critics warn threatens the integrity of the General Public License (GPL) that governs Linux distribution.
In his keynote, Hovsepian emphasized the agreement with Microsoft was purely customer-driven. Companies will run both Linux and Windows servers, and Hovsepian said network managers have told Novell the two have to work better together.
The theme was continued when Novell executive vice-president and chief technology officer Jeff Jaffe shared the stage with Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft, for a “fireside chat” to discuss the relationship.
Jaffe said in future there will only be two operating systems in the enterprise: Linux and Windows.
“At the end of the day, Novell will push for Linux, Microsoft will push for Windows, and we’ll agree to disagree, but we’ll agree on interoperability,” said Jaffe.
Mundie agreed, saying customers looking to invest more heavily in both Linux and Windows are concerned about interoperability. He added they also sought assurances on patents, wanting to know that at least Novell and Microsoft would be at peace.
However, the licensing aspects of the agreement have raised the ire of some in the open source community, including Bruce Perens, a prominent open source advocate, who had 3,000 developers sign his open letter to Novell.
He doesn’t have an issue with the technical interoperability, but Perens said the patent portion of the partnership is tantamount to a “protection racket” that breaks moral faith with the spirit of the GPL.
“Here’s Novell coming along saying ‘We’re going to sell you the right to use Bruce’s software, which Bruce can’t sell himself’ – and if you don’t get it from them, Microsoft will sue you,” said Perens. “It just doesn’t sound fair. If this kind of deal continues, people won’t want to write this kind of software.”
In a statement, the executive director of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman, said Microsoft patents are being used to give an unfair advantage to Novell, and added such deals “make a mockery” of open source. Accordingly, Stallman indicated version 3 of the GPL, currently under development and expected to be released shortly, will take preventive steps.
Noting that GPL 3 is still being drafted, Justin Steinman, director of product marketing, Linux and open platform solutions with Novell, declined to comment on Stallman’s statement. However, he did say the company has 250 engineers on staff focused on in-house Linux development, and all their work is shared with the open source community.
‘Good for customers’
While the purists in both the Linux and Windows communities may have some issues with the partnership, at the end of the day it’s good for enterprise customers, said Shiau of The Strategic Council.
“No matter what anybody says on one side or another, if the impact is good for you, I’d say who cares what the intentions are,” said Shiau. “If you go to any large enterprise and ask them if the potential of Linux going into their environment increased as a result of this deal, I think they’re going to say yes.”
The partnership has gotten a thumbs-up from Darren Fankhanel, senior manager, IT operations with Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton. The college has used Novell products to run much of its back end for 15 years, and Fankhanel said integration with best of breed Windows-based products has always been a challenge.
“Our end-users often have software they require that is a Microsoft product, and we as an IT department have to provide a back-end infrastructure to do that,” said Fankhanel.
“We need to have support teams in both areas managing the servers, and that increases our cost. I think for us the partnership will be a good thing.”