Many IT professionals have recently begun to ask, "What's Novell doing with Linux?" A better question at this point might be what isn't Novell doing with Linux and open source software.
For quite some time, the open source Apache Web server has been included in Novell's NetWare operating system, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Novell has now embraced Linux and has plans for integrating it into many Novell products, which could alter the plans that some admins have for Novell products. It could affect Linux plans as well, now that Novell is standing behind Linux.
Novell Nterprise Linux Services
Novell is welcoming Linux and open source into its fold on many fronts. From bundling popular open source applications into its programs to offering a forthcoming version of the venerable NetWare operating system based on a Linux kernel, Novell is not being coy about its intentions.
A new Novell product long in the works and currently looking for beta testers, Nterprise Linux Services promises a set of services, formerly offered only on NetWare, that are now deployable on Linux. All of these services are compliant with Linux Standard Base (LSB) and can run on top of popular Linux platforms such as Red Hat Enterprise Server and SuSE Linux, as well as others.
Among the services included in the Nterprise suite are eDirectory with DirXML (for identity management and for connections to NT, Active Directory, and Exchange databases); file services using iFolder; print services based on iPrint; messaging services using NetMail supporting up to 50,000 messaging and calendar users on a single server; systems management using ZENworks; and systems administration using iManage. Already, IBM, HP, and Dell have signed on to provide Nterprise Linux Services to their Linux customers.
Although traditionally weak in the marketing arena against other players (notably Microsoft), Novell has long offered reliable and effective enterprise products, such as NetWare, ZENworks, eDirectory, and GroupWise. Meanwhile, Linux has made impressive strides in the enterprise but is still considered by some as an "alternative" operating system. And even though it already provides a plethora of services, adding Novell's offerings to Linux could bring that OS even deeper into enterprise server rooms by bestowing an enterprise-level directory and application development environment on almost any major Linux distribution. Not yet included in the beta for Nterprise Linux Services, a Linux-based GroupWise client will be added later this year to further round out the offering.
The "One Net" goal
Nterprise Linux Services is a part of Novell Nterprise, a project with the goal of achieving Novell's "One Net" vision of ubiquitous access to resources. For years, Novell has been porting its primary applications—including eDirectory and GroupWise—to other platforms. In fact, if you want to run GroupWise today, all you need is a Windows server, a free eDirectory license, and the GroupWise software. No NetWare server is required.
Sometime in 2005, Novell plans to ship NetWare 7. It will be a radical departure from the traditional NetWare line in that it will come in two editions. One edition will be the traditional NetWare server using Novell's time-tested and robust—but proprietary—kernel. The second edition will be a version of NetWare using a Linux kernel.
Regardless of whether a company runs NetWare, Nterprise Linux Services provides today's Linux shops with native versions of Novell's productivity and management tools. These shops don't have to install NetWare or wait until 2005 when NetWare 7 ships to take advantage of Novell's offerings.
However, although NetWare 7 will have a dual NetWare/Linux focus, Novell is clearly banking its future on Linux. Recently, Novell executives even indicated that after NetWare 7, the company will probably put an end to NetWare development and move those resources to Linux.
Meeting the competition head-on
Novell enjoyed widespread use of its products in the early-to-mid '90s, but it now faces fierce competition from Microsoft and Linux, among others. However, the technology of its product offerings is still solid. To fight back, Novell has charged ahead with ports of its products to other platforms, namely Windows and Linux, with the emphasis now moving to Linux. If Novell can pull off the execution of this strategy and truly extend Linux to seamlessly and efficiently embrace its offerings, it could catapult Linux to gain even more rack space in the server room.