Novell Adds Linux Support In GroupWise, eDirectory

Executives shed light on integration of Ximian products

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Novell continued its unabashed Linux push Tuesday with plans to add Linux support for its GroupWise e-mail and eDirectory.

The company announced at the LinuxWorld Expo in San Francisco that GroupWise client/server services will run on Linux, as expected (see story). Groupwise for Linux is due in the first half of 2004. The application melds e-mail, calendaring and scheduling, and contact management.

Novell, Provo, Utah, also shipped this week its LDAP-based eDirectory with support for Red Hat and SuSE Linux distributions, the company said.

Novell has been beating the Linux drum avidly since its annual Brainshare show in April. At that time, Novell Chairman and CEO Jack Messman said the file, print and storage services of NetWare 7.0, due next year, will be uncoupled from the underlying system services of the network operating system. So with NetWare 7.0, file, print and storage services will run natively on both NetWare and Linux kernels (see story).

Adding another layer to its Linux strategy, Novell said Monday it had acquired Ximian, a Boston-based maker of Linux desktop software. During a press conference at LinuxWorld, Messman and Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone shed some light on how the company plans to integrate Ximian products with its own.

Stone said Novell will initially continue to offer its own product suite and the Ximian Linux client and groupware products separately. But the companies will work to move to a universal client that integrates components of all the product lines.

"From our perspective, we're not doing piece parts or porting software," Stone said. "The entire stack is what Novell is after."

For example, Ximian co-founder and former Senior Vice President Nat Friedman, now vice president of research and development in the newly created Novell Ximian Services business unit, said there are "important infrastructure services" Novell has in its NetWare operating system that Linux currently doesn't have. "We want the Ximian desktop to [take advantage] of this," Friedman said.

Messman stressed that Novell has absolutely no plans to abandon NetWare and will continue to support it as long as customers want to buy it. "We're not dropping NetWare, we're adding Linux," Messman said.

Friedman said Novell's support for Linux and open-source in general, as well as its purchase of Ximian, spells huge opportunity for the adoption of Linux on the desktop.

"The desktop is the next big thing for Linux," Friedman said. "It's where we're going to see the most explosive activity."

Friedman warned, however, that it is foolish to expect Linux on the desktop to become a significant threat to Microsoft Windows all at once. As Linux adoption grew slowly in server environments, initial adoption at the desktop level, too, will come slowly at "the edge"--i.e., in technical workstations and single-use cases--before the "general knowledge worker" begins using Linux clients, he said.

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