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Novell adopts Linux as NetWare migration path

By Don Tennant
April 14, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SALT LAKE CITY -- Faced with the reality of a steadily falling share of the network operating system market, Novell Inc. today answered the NetWare migration question. And the answer is Linux.

At its annual BrainShare user and partner conference here, Novell executives announced that NetWare 7, due out in approximately two years, will be a set of services that sits on top of both the NetWare and Linux kernels.

"We are not dropping NetWare; we are adding Linux. This is not a departure from NetWare," said Jack Messman, Novell's chairman and CEO. "We will not abandon you, and you need not abandon us," Messman told the Novell faithful in his keynote speech.

In a press conference following his keynote, Messman said Novell customers paying maintenance fees will have the option to migrate over time from the NetWare kernel to the Linux kernel if they choose. "It's a good migration path for NetWare users who were worried about where we were going with NetWare," Messman said. "It gives customers comfort" that file, print, storage, directory, Web development, resource management and other NetWare services will be available for the long haul, he said.

NetWare 6.5, the public beta of which was released today, is scheduled for availability this summer. Messman said NetWare 7 availability will follow Novell's standard timeline of approximately 18 months between releases.

Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone said it's too early to elaborate on plans for the packaging of the Linux kernel. He said Novell has no plans to release a "unique flavor" of Linux, adding that the utilities and services that would be part of Novell's Linux offering are still being worked out. In any case, whether a customer opts for the NetWare kernel or the Linux kernel is "irrelevant," Stone said. "The value is in the services."

Messman stressed that Novell will continue to support and enhance NetWare. "It's all about choice," he said. He expressed the view that for NetWare users, having the choice to migrate to Linux will be more important than exercising it. "I think once they get that option, they'll choose not to do it," he said. "They just need to know they can."

George Kuzmowycz, system and technology project leader at AIPSO, a Johnston, R.I.-based nonprofit organization that provides services for the automobile insurance industry, was unconcerned with the Linux announcement. "We've been a NetWare shop since [Version] 2x, so we're probably not changing," he said. "It's interesting, but probably not relevant from a business perspective." Kuzmowycz said he's more concerned about Novell's progress in Web services integrationand new marketing approaches.

A NetWare systems administrator supporting 16,000 users at a large industrial supply company in the Midwest who asked not to be identified said he wasn't particularly interested in Novell's Linux strategy from a NetWare standpoint. "[But] from a GroupWise standpoint, absolutely," he said, referring to Novell's messaging and collaboration offering.

Novell announced today that a Java-based GroupWise client for Linux and Macintosh desktops will be available later this year.

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