Novell Touts Integrated Suite at BrainShare

Users say they will look at open-source package as alternative to Microsoft

SALT LAKE CITY — Novell Inc. is taking a page out of Microsoft Corp.'s marketing playbook while trying to sidestep its juggernaut rival.

Users and analysts at the Waltham, Mass.-based vendor's annual BrainShare conference here last week were cautiously optimistic that the latest strategy will bear more fruit than past Novell turnaround efforts.

At the conference, Novell began touting its software as an integrated suite of products that run on its flagship SUSE Linux operating system. For instance, Novell unveiled a low-priced bundle of office and back-end applications aimed at enterprise workgroups.

Novell officials contend that the integrated SUSE Linux-based offerings—including security and identity software, management tools and desktop applications such as a new custom version of OpenOffice 2.0—are cheaper and easier to use than Windows tools.

Longtime Novell customer Robert McInerney, North American information systems infrastructure manager at TRW Automotive Holdings Corp., said that he is "intrigued" by Novell's new version of OpenOffice. The custom tool offers more compatibility with Microsoft Office's file formats, fonts and Visual Basic scripts than the open-source version.

McInerney said the Livonia, Mich.-based auto parts supplier will look into running the software on its 9,000 PCs.

Novell has tangled with Microsoft several times over the years, coming out the worse for wear each time. This time is different, argued Ron Hovsepian, Novell's president and chief operating officer. "What the next generation of users will want is value," he said.

Novell's new Open Workgroup Suite includes the Linux version of Open Enterprise Server, its GroupWise messaging software, ZENworks, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and OpenOffice. The bundle is priced at $110 per user license plus $75 per user a year in maintenance.

"Novell can clearly offer a broader scope of products than [Linux rival] Red Hat directly can," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H. "The strategy does seem to be moving ahead."

During the conference, Novell showed off the latest beta of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, which is slated to ship in May.

The company also demonstrated the desktop version of SUSE Linux 10, which offers 3-D graphics and an integrated search engine. In addition, Novell promised to support NetWare 6.5 until 2015.

That pleased loyalists such as Edmund Weber, an IT director at the University of Regensburg in Germany, which has long stored more than 40TB of data for 30,000 students and professors on NetWare servers and doesn't plan to move to SUSE Linux until 2009.

Novell’s BrainShare Conference

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10: Will support Xen 3.0 hypervisor software for virtualization; scheduled to launch in May.

Novell Open Workgroup Suite: Includes Linux version of Novell Open Enterprise Server, GroupWise, ZENworks, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and OpenOffice.

Novell edition of OpenOffice: Offers increased compatibility with Microsoft Office.

BlackBerry Enterprise Server 4.1 for GroupWise.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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