In 2006, Novell will launch a “Linux awareness” program meant to migrate more customers, resellers, and development partners from NetWare and Microsoft Windows to open source alternatives.
This, according to Ed Anderson, VP of global marketing for Novell’s Linux and open source solutions. Unlike most of its competitors, Novell currently sells both proprietary and Linux software, Anderson said in an interview with LinuxPlanet. “We have mixed business models,” he added.
Novell has no plans, at this point, of abandoning support for either Windows or its long-time NetWare platform, Anderson explained. But in a multifaceted program to take place next year, Novell is due to become “substantially more aggressive” about selling Linux.
In umbrella terms, the new program is about “giving more choice to customers,” according to Anderson. “[But] it will be oriented to telling people there are alternatives to proprietary OS.
“We’re going to (drive) Linux up the adoption curve. We want to see Linux in the mainstream,” he added.
Entailing a company-wide change in “corporate messaging,” Novell’s Linux awareness program will range from new ad campaigns for customers to a series of new programs for resellers and developers.
Customers will be urged to replace Unix servers in the data center with Linux, and to reduce costs through clustered Linux servers, for example.
“We’ll also be targeting growth for Linux at the edge of the network, on Web servers, and in database servers,” Anderson said.
Novell will start to swing out harder, too, against Red Hat, its biggest rival in the Linux open source space.
Novell’s relationship with Red Hat is really multidimensional, according to Anderson. “In one sense, we have a shared interest in Linux as an alternative, so we work closely with Red Hat on many aspects of open source,” he illustrated.
“But we also compete with Red Hat and we’ll be more aggressive here, too. We have the largest (Linux) server and we have better customer relationships and contacts,” he contended.
Actually, Novell has already lured some Linux users away from Red Hat, including GHY International, a former Red Hat reference customer.
Essentially, GHY switched from Red Hat to Novell because of its need to keep its Linux software in step with IBM’s iSeries midrange platform.
“Red Hat keeps saying its distro isn’t ready, whereas, in general, Novell’s been ready day one,” said Nigel Fortlage, VP of Information Technology at GHY.
Why did Novell pinpoint 2006 as the year to pour more of its marketing resources into Linux? For one thing, the time is just about right, since Novell has already ported most of its NetWare software to Linux.
But Anderson also acknowledged certain advantages from a business standpoint. Novell makes more money from services than software.
Meanwhile, the market is moving in the directions of Linux and open source. “Linux is becoming a much more dynamic environment,” he noted.
New programs for VARs, also to be unveiled next year, will focus on Linux in the midrange market.
As Anderson sees it, Linux has achieved better penetration in the large enterprise space than among customers with about 500 to 3,000 employees.
Novell will continue to sell to the enterprise market directly. But to drive more Linux sales to the midrange, the company will bring out new reseller programs with benefits that include lead generation and co-marketing funds. “We will help (VARs) to generate demand,” he said.
The new programs for VARs will also be geographically focused. Novell will place a particular emphasis on attracting resellers in the Asia Pacific, according to Anderson.
But North America will be important, too, especially given Red Hat’s historic lead in the Linux market on this continent.
GHY’s Fortlage also pointed to some others reasons why Novell might make headway with customers.
“With its strategic acquisitions of SuSE Linux and Ximian, and its metamorphosis from NetWare to Linux, Novell has shown great resourcefulness,” Fortlage said.
“Here is a company that’s been able to see itself reborn,” the VP observed.
Moreover, Fortlage also sees a substantial need in the Linux/open source market for a groupware program such as Novell’s GroupWise.
“This is especially true in that there isn’t a Lotus Notes client for Linux yet,” Fortlage said.
This article was first published on LinuxPlanet.com.