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Linux push breathes new life into Novell for some IT execs

Users give NetWare another chance as product integration moves are on tap

March 22, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Attendees at Novell Inc.'s BrainShare conference this week will hear more product announcements related to the company's Linux strategy, but the bigger news may be the smiling faces of Novell officials and many users.

The reason: After suffering through a protracted period of decline, Novell and its flagship NetWare technology have acquired new life following the company's purchases of Linux software vendors Ximian Inc. and SUSE Linux AG, several users and analysts said.

In fact, some users who previously had bad impressions of Novell are now buying its products because of its Linux-oriented strategy, said James Taylor, a consultant at The East Cobb Group Inc. in Marietta, Ga. For example, Taylor said, a medical device maker that he wouldn't name is installing six NetWare-based servers for file and print functions, plus six Linux servers that are running NetWare services under the open-source operating system.

Boscov's Department Store LLC in Reading, Pa., gave up on NetWare several years ago, said Joe Poole, manager of technical support at the 40-store retail chain. But he and other IT managers at Boscov's met with a Novell salesman last week to discuss, among other things, the possible use of Linux on its 1,200 desktops.

"We did write Novell off with NetWare," Poole said, noting that Boscov's primarily migrated to Windows-based servers. "But I'm more excited about SUSE than ever before because of Novell's purchase of them." He added, though, that SUSE users may have to pay higher prices to Novell.

A spokesman for Novell wouldn't disclose details about product announcements due to be made at BrainShare, which is being held in Salt Lake City. But he said Novell plans to highlight "synergies between the products of companies" it has acquired.

One move the company recently made that it didn't announce was the official relocation of its headquarters to Waltham, Mass., where most of its top executives, including CEO Jack Messman, work.

The company filed papers with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about two months ago to indicate the move from Provo, Utah, said spokesman Bruce Lowry in an interview.

Lowry said no jobs have been lost or moved, and that about 2,000 Novell workers continue to work in the Provo area, with about 500 in the Waltham office. Novell also still operates a small Cambridge, Mass., office.

Asked why a news release wasn't considered necessary, Lowry said, "We didn't think it was a big deal. It was purely a paper move." Also, a news release would only have made Provo workers worry about their jobs when the jobs were all secure, he said.

Local newspapers in Salt Lake City and Boston knew about the move around the time of the filing, he said.

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