Novell Dips a Toe into Open-Source

Computer networking and business software provider admits it has stuck with proprietary systems too long.

Networking software maker Novell , a longtime advocate of proprietary systems, is the latest company to embrace open standards and technological backing for Linux , the open-source operating system.

Novell detailed its planned technological migration of its NetWare network operating system at its annual "BrainShare" user and partner conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Novell executives said NetWare 7 will be out in around a year and a half, and will offer a suite of services, which reside on both NetWare and Linux kernels.

Novell chairman and CEO Jack Messman said that the company is moving forward with innovation of NetWare, and would be adding Linux features in the future. Messman said Novell customers will have the option to migrate to the Linux kernel , if that's the direction they choose.

Novell released the public beta of NetWare 6.5 on Monday, in conjunction with the opening of the BrainShare conference. While Novell is moving towards building Linux into its future products, company officials say they are in the initial stages of Linux development, and their focus is on innovations to NetWare.

Novell said NetWare 7.0 will contain both NetWare and Linux services and applications, but until then the company said it will consolidate many of the applications and services into NetWare 6.5, as well as the 32/64-bit version of NetWare. NetWare 6.5 is scheduled to ship this summer.

Novell made several announcements Monday at BrainShare, including its plan to offer a new Java-based GroupWise client for Linux and Macintosh desktops, which is expected to be available later this year.

Novell also said its Linux client for GroupWise was developed after acquiring Newcomp Computer Systems, and the company also showed a pre-release version of software for its GroupWise server.

Messman said NetWare 6.5 will include open-source technologies, such as Apache, MySQL, Perl, PHP, and Tomcat. He also said that with the inclusion of the Novell exteNd Application Server, acquired last year from SilverStream Software, enterprises are now able to run any J2EE applications on NetWare.

Messman acknowledged that Novell has stuck with proprietary technologies for too long, and that it is time to migrate to an open-source strategy.

To that end, Novell debuted a new Web site for the open-source and developer communities it is calling Novell Forge. The site offers developers the ability to download, modify, exchange, and update open-source code released by Novell.

Novell may find itself with little choice but to make plans to align some of its products with the open-source movement in the software industry.

In its most recent quarter which ended January 31, 2003, Novel noted in its risk factors that it may not be able to successfully compete in a challenging market for computer software and consulting services due to the difficult global economic conditions.

Meanwhile, most of its key competitors, have moved to embrace Linux and open-source in varying degrees, including IBM, BEA Systems and Sun Microsystems. Even Microsoft has moved to respond to open-source advocates by launching its Shared Source program, which lets qualified third parties have access to Windows CE operating system code for handheld devices.

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