August 2, 2005 6:11 PM PDT

Novell seeks outside help with Linux

Novell plans to begin opening up development of one of its Linux products to outside programmers in a project called OpenSuse, a strategy similar to that taken by rival Red Hat, Novell is expected to announce next week.

Novell is launching the project in an attempt to attract more outside developers, new users and, ultimately, market share, said Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, director of marketing for Linux and open source. Novell is the No. 2 seller of Linux after Red Hat.

Novell and Red Hat each have two versions of Linux: a slow-changing, higher-priced product intended for conservative customers and a fast-changing version for enthusiasts and developers. For Red Hat, the products are Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora, respectively, and for Novell, they are Suse Linux Enterprise Server and Suse Linux Professional.

Novell is paring down this latter product's name to Suse Linux and plans to invite outsiders to help build it, Mancusi-Ungaro said.

In the past, "We've made (Suse Linux) not widely available--just retail stores or a packaged download from an FTP. It's not the easiest way to gain a large user community," he said. The company is trying to turn that around through the invitation for outside involvement and an effort to distribute more copies of the software, a push called the lizard blizzard, a reference to the company's Geeko mascot.

Novell isn't the only one trying a more open approach. Sun Microsystems has begun opening its Solaris source code in an effort to regain the relevance the Unix version has lost to Linux. Attracting users is key for Novell: Wall Street analysts see Novell's Linux effort as a key factor in the company's financial health as revenue from its older NetWare operating system declines.

But creating a collaboration with the broad community of open-source programmers is a difficult task. Red Hat has tried for more than two years to get its Fedora project fully off the ground, most recently taking the step of creating the Fedora Foundation to try to give the project more independence.

The first stage of Novell's effort will begin next week with the first public beta test release, Mancusi-Ungaro said. Next, Novell will accept bug fixes and suggestions from outsiders, and, eventually, more active development. By the spring of 2006, Novell will make the product's underlying source code available and will provide publicly accessible servers that can be used to build the software, he said.

"We're trying to make it easier for application developers to come to Suse, create forks (variations on Novell's product), create packages and build the software," Mancusi-Ungaro said.

Along with the greater openness will come an effort to spread the software as widely as possible--an effort Novell hopes will distinguish Suse Linux from Fedora.

Where Fedora is available chiefly by downloading multiple large CD images, Novell plans to distribute Suse Linux CDs in magazines, at trade shows and meetings, and possibly by sending them to those who just ask.

"We will give away thousands at user group events," he said.

5 comments

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go novell!
this is a great move for the linux community. it means that more of us can get involved and hopefully this will provide a better SuSE for everyone. i just hope that they keep the OS stable so we don't have scare stories like those from fedora.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
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Don't repeat RedHat
I'm OK with this move so long as they don't repeat the problems RedHat has had. I once used RedHat for my home computers but when they introduced Fedora I switched to SuSE. Fedora was too buggy, too unstable and just too experimental for what I needed at home. I dumped it like a hot potato and have never looked back.

SuSE to this point has provided precisely what I need, a nice stable, supported OS that works. Hopefully I don't lose this or I'll be looking for yet another distribution.

My message to SuSE is to be careful. Learn from RedHat's mistakes.
Posted by herkamur (115 comments )
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i'm with you
i've never use fedora before (i started on SuSE) but i've heard of the problems with it. as long as they have a stable version (like debian) than i will be happy to continue using openSuSE.
Posted by Scott W (419 comments )
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RED HAT AND NOVELL HAVE CREATED A MESS
RED HAT and Novel have taken an open source operating system and converted into greed. And now they are learning that they are not making the money they had hoped to. They had promised the robust applications to Linux users. But they don't have the Robust vapplications. Now they are asking the programmers to come forward to contribute to their code. These programmers would be fools to create a code that will be commercially exploited.

Actually there was no reason to develop the open source operating engine known as Linux if it was to use the same browser and same internet infrastructure as Microsoft's window but different source code. The obvious idea is to put Microsoft out of business.

There is every reason to develop a different type of a browser than is used by the existing Internet Service Providers. The existing internet service is good only for the hackers and music pirates. Whereas Red Hat and Novell Applications are not doing any good the server based internet service would be a boon to companies in a number of different fields like cellphone manufacturers, internet service producers and telecoms, music Industry, RIAA etc. as discussed at

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.newerawisp.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.newerawisp.blogspot.com</a>
Posted by newerawisp (47 comments )
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Novell should open source everything
I know that would be asking a lot as it would seem to be giving away the crown jewels for free, but in the long run I believe that it will remove the barriers from companies to give it a try. And from IT people to actually look at what they have to offer. And really when it comes down to implementation every company wants support and where are they going to go to for that support....Novell. That is where they can make their money. But they need to give away their eDirectory server and all other apps make them open source, remove the licensing barriers and give business and IT people a good reason to try them. Do we really need another Linux Flavor. What we need is a good alternative to Active Directory, to Network Management. Novell has the tools to do this, however, I think companies have been so highly invested on Microsoft...and are so integrated into Microsoft products, you really need to give them a very good reason to switch. The best reason would be the removal of Licensing issues. I think Novell has the best chance of doing this, but they have to start thinking out of the box. Open Source SUSE? Open Source Everything and you will definitely see interesting things happen.
Posted by nknk417 (12 comments )
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