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Novell Loading Channel For Linux

Under pressure to accelerate its Linux channel efforts, Novell this week will launch at its BrainShare conference a new MarketStart program and Novell Linux Small Business Suite.

Linux

The MarketStart program is an initiative to give open-source companies access to Novell's distribution channel and global support operations, sources said. It is designed to extend Novell's "go-to-market" capabilities to Linux, they added.

The new Linux products and services, combined with the shipment of Novell's Open Enterprise Server (OES) earlier this month, marks a major turning point for the Waltham, Mass.-based company's Linux channel efforts, partners said.

"If it weren't for Novell's Linux strategy, we'd be down the road and on to other things," said Charlie Tragesser, CEO of Polar Systems, Portland Ore. "Novell has given us a number of challenges, I think. But we're interested. We'd like to integrate Linux into companies."

David Westrheim, CEO of intelliNet, Vancouver, British Columbia, said the launch of OES is a defining moment for NetWare's channel and will push partners to a future based on Linux. "NetWare on top of Suse Linux is a brilliant play by Novell to keep their base," said Westrheim, who is one of several NetWare VARs that recently attended an OES briefing.

OES combines NetWare and Suse Linux with migration tools to help NetWare VARs migrate customers to Linux. Novell plans to ship in 2006 Novell Linux Desktop 10, code-named Cassidy, with support for the OES client.

During a recent earnings call, Novell CEO Jack Messman acknowledged Linux sales have been disappointing, but he noted that NetWare VARs are being trained on OES and it may take several quarters before the results are in.

Yet Novell's push comes as Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., is turning up the heat on NetWare defections. In addition to launching a NetWare Migration program in November, Microsoft and Quest Software, Irvine, Calif., said they have migrated more than 1.5 million NetWare users to Windows.

Microsoft also recently approached Alvaka Networks, a longtime Novell Platinum partner, and pledged to pay the migration services costs for the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based company's few remaining NetWare customers to move to Windows, said Alvaka CEO Oli Thordarson. "Microsoft gives the customer a check with Alvaka's name on it," he said.

Michael Carey, CEO of IT Systems Group, New York, who received the Novell 2002 Service award, said he became a Microsoft partner after Novell took over some of his big accounts.

"We lost more business because of Novell steering practices away from us than all competitors combined. We are talking millions," said Carey, who currently has several large migrations to Windows in progress. "As such, we are growing our reputation as the Novell-to-Microsoft migration consulting company. Microsoft flew in two engineers to our facility and invested more than $15,000 in us with that alone."

Partners also complain that Novell is squandering resources by keeping too many consultants employed and acquiring Salmon Consulting late last year. And they say the revolving door of company executives and field-sales force makes them skittish. Last week, Novell CTO Alan Nugent resigned.

"It's not the folks running the channel, but the problem is higher up," said a Novell partner who requested anonymity. "Novell has experienced a lot of changes in letting people go. There are almost no good relationships we can depend on anymore."

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