Novell CEO Trots Out New Goodies At BrainShare

For partners, there was the promise of new, and free, NetWare-to-Linux training and a new Certified Linux Professional certification. Novell will pay the full cost on that certification for partners.

Such programs are vital for a company that built its business -- and actually a whole industry -- around NetWare, but is now segueing to a Linux-based model.

Hovsepian told CRN that improvements to SUSE Linux Open Enterprise Server's virtualization capabilities will preserve partners' investment in existing NetWare technologies -- and that their tried-and-true Netware apps will run unchanged in that environment.

Partners who converged in Salt Lake City for the event were also jazzed about the demos of Orchestrator, a management tool for heterogeneous virtualized environments.

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Novacoast, a Santa Barbara, Calif. Novell partner, is already building a service practice around that offering, according to CEO Paul Anderson. Orchestrator, would, if it works as advertised, permit management of diverse virtualized environments from one console.

In other news, Novell announced release of a public beta for SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 Service Pack 1. Service Pack 1 adds better ability to run Windows Server 2000/2003/XP instances unmodified in Xen virtual environments.

The public beta for Open Enterprise Server 2 is also due soon.

The company also announced Novell Identity Manager 3.5 with tight integration with Novell's Sentinel monitoring to ease the implementation of compliance policies as well as a new version of Sentinel itself.

Novell is also working with SiteScape, Maynard, Mass., on an open-source collaboration suite, called ICEcorps, which will be available in both free and commercial versions. Novell's version, to be called Teaming and Teaming Plus Collaboration, should be out mid-year.

Brainshare also featured a demo of a new Linux Enterprise thin client as well as an imaging tool that will enable partners to customize the exact type of thin client needed.

Many customers want a stateless desktop, a thin client but "different companies want it thin in different ways," said Novell CTO Jeff Jaffe. "How do you customize it? This is a channel play. Our image creation toolkit [lets partners] customize the thin client, create their own version of SLED to meet customer needs," he added.

Novacoast's Anderson was also aboard with this demo, conducted on stage by Nat Friedman, Novell's chief technology and strategy officer for open source.

"He is such a rock star. It's exciting to see Novell do something so exciting on the customer-facing front. They've always done great infrastructure, but that's not what customers typically see," Anderson added.

Products aside, Novell will clearly be dogged with questions about its six-month-old Microsoft alliance for the foreseeable future and Hovsepian once again laid out the boundaries of that controversial pact. He said customers have mandated that the companies, long arch-rivals, must ensure that their infrastructure work together well. But beyond that, they will continue to compete tooth and nail.

"The bottom line is customers want to buy certain technologies in the marketplace that do certain things together. Very simply, our point of view is that Microsoft does remain a competitor. [Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer] and I stood on stage and made it abundantly clear we'd compete. I want my customers on the J2EE/open source stack. He says the .Net /Windows stack. We agreed those are the rules for fighting," Hovsepian told reporters and analysts after his keynote.

Most remarkably, Craig Mundie Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, shared the Brainshare stage with Jaffe Monday morning and acknowledged, several times, that Microsoft knows that customers will continue to run heterogeneous environments.

"We're evolving to a point where there are a couple of platforms. You can't standardize everything. We talked to customers and it became absolutely clear that there would be a mixed environment. They pushed on us a lot about interop, but also about continuing innovation," Mundie said.

A long-time Microsoft integration partner, informed of that comment said, via e-mail: "Yeah, from Microsoft's perspective there will be a couple of OSes32-bit and 64-bit Windows."

Hovsepian, in an interview with CRN, seemed to know what he's up against. Microsoft and Novell have bashed each other's brains in for more than 20 years, with Microsoft eventually stealing Novell's network operating system lead -- and some say its partner model as well -- with Windows Server.

Hovsepian said Novell can win against Microsoft if it pushes the decision out to customers. Novell is banking that many customers do not want to buy into the soup-to-nuts Microsoft stack. For example, it is positioning Teaming and Teaming Plus Collaboration as a real-time collaboration offering for companies who do not want to be locked completely into Microsoft's stack. The new collaboration software will work with Novell's own GroupWise mail or with Microsoft Exchange, for example.

This report was updated Monday night with additional detail on collaboration plans and partner comment.