Novell Readies Hybrid Linux-NetWare OS

Novell is poised to begin shipping its long-awaited Open Enterprise Server (OES) operating system. The hybrid server environment combines the legacy file, print and network-management features of NetWare with the operating-system heft of Linux. The latter is folded into the product in the form of Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 (SLES 9).

With shipments expected to commence later this month, it's considered likely that Novell CEO Jack Messman will spotlight OES's use of Linux in his keynote address at LinuxWorld on Tuesday.

In marketing terms, Novell is hoping OES will provide a gentle migration path for its legions of long-time NetWare users who've been wondering where to go next -- and may have been considering Microsoft -- now that that product has effectively reached the end of the line.

However, unlike Novell's server and desktop Linux offerings, OES straddles the fence, shipping with both NetWare and Linux as part of the package. At installation, users can pick either one to serve as the face of their installation.

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"You can choose either the NetWare kernel running underneath OES or SLES 9 Linux," says Charlie Ungashick, Linux marketing manager at Novell. "The OES services will run the same, regardless of which you choose. You can even run NetWare and SLES side-by-side in a cluster."

Separately, Novell is reportedly at work on a version of Linux tuned specifically for the SMB market. Though the company hasn't provided a timetable, Messman first disclosed his desire to target the SMB space in a conference call with reporters last summer.

VARs agree that SMBs could be just the ticket to grow the Linux user base.

"In the SMB market, budgets are limited, so they're trying to take advantage of Linux as best they can," says Frank Basanta, director of technology at Systems Solutions, a New York-based Linux integrator. "The more applications that are written and certified on Linux, the more the SMB market can take advantage of Linux."

Separately, Novell is moving to extend Linux's reach on the security front. The company recently unveiled a Linux-based perimeter security product that protects against security threats such as hackers intrusion as well as viruses and spam.