January 27, 2005 12:47 PM PST

Novell's Linux strategy worries some customers

Novell's ambitious strategy for Linux has led some customers to worry that the networking company may withdraw support for some of its legacy applications.

Speaking at the company's Linux Big Picture Event on Thursday in London, executives told customers more about Novell's Open Enterprise Server, or OES, an upcoming product that will combine the company's NetWare operating system with SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9.

In the keynote speech at the event, Brian Green, Novell's European director of Linux solutions, said OES will let NetWare customers take advantage of the applications that are available for Linux and will allow SuSE Linux customers to use NetWare services on Linux.

"We appreciate that SuSE Linux provides a stable secure platform for business applications," Green said. "What we've done with Novell Open Enterprise Server is take network services, decouple them from the kernel and make them available on Linux. We've taken all the services you've got used to with NetWare--file system, printing engine--and made them available on Linux."

OES is scheduled for release in mid-February, according to a Novell representative.

But some NetWare customers were concerned that through embracing Linux and open-source applications, Novell may soon withdraw support for proprietary applications that are duplicated in its open-source stack. In particular, some customers highlighted the risk to GroupWise, Novell's e-mail and collaboration tool, which offers similar functionality to the open-source alternatives SuSE Linux Openexchange Server and Evolution.

James Cunnington, the IS support manager at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, said he is concerned that GroupWise is likely to be one of the first applications Novell will end support for.

"We use GroupWise as an e-mail system," Cunnington said. "But it now has a limited life, so it is earlier on our list of things to change."

He said he was also concerned about the future of NetWare. "NetWare has had a shrinking market share for such a long time that we have to be concerned," Cunnington said.

Sebastien Springbett, the head of ICT services at the arbitration organization ACAS, said that although he believes Novell may end support for Groupwise, it is likely to make the migration as easy as possible. He said NetWare's days are likely to be numbered, although over a longer time scale.

"In 20 years time I very much doubt NetWare will still exist," said Springbett. "At some time version 6 will stop being supported and Novell will provide an upgrade path to Linux."

Representatives from the Big Lottery Fund, which distributes money from the National Lottery, agreed that both Groupwise and NetWare were likely to be on their way out now that Novell's network services are being made available on Linux. "There's no point in them continuing to develop NetWare," said one support engineer.

Steve Brown, the European vice president of Novell, said the company would continue providing support for GroupWise in the immediate future. "Certainly in the short term," Brown said. He said GroupWise has advantages over Evolution such as scheduling, encryption and more formal support.

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Open Exchange?! No way!
Novell doesn't even OWN Open Exchange! It's OEM'd from NetLine and I seriously doubt they'd drop a fantastic product for one they don't even own. Sheesh!
Posted by (3 comments )
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What I think.
I think Novell will eventually try to merge Evolution and Groupwise into a single package. Kind of like what they are doing with netware and linux. I figure at some point they will take the best of Groupwise and the best of Evolution and create a Groupolution.

I think the direction Novell is taking is good. I love Netware for all its wonderful features, but nobody wants to support it anymore. I can't find software for it and hardware choices are always troublesome. If Novell can move some of its best technologies (like NDS/eDirectory, iPrint, etc.) to Linux I really think Linux will surpass Windows in leaps and bounds as far as servers go. Only time will tell.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
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Do these guys work for Microsoft?
Does Novell really think that an organization that has used GroupWise as their messaging platform for years, will even consider staying on Novell products after being let down by Novell's apparent 'Attention Deficit' when it comes to GroupWise?
Open Exchange is a joke - if I want to pay MS for Outlook - I'll buy the real thing - not a cheap knock-off, and there's no way I'll keep my users on NDS - in case Novell loses attention there too in the future.
FOr a company that has made a career of shooting themselves in the foot - they're clearly aiming higher this time - for their head...
Maybe it's time to rename 'Suse' -to 'Loser'
Although we may not be the largest company in the world, Novell has made hundreds of thousands of dollars off us. Not any more - we're abandoning this sinking ship, and will do our best to convince others to do the same.
Customer loyalty is a function of vendor loyalty - and Novell is the Benedict Arnold of software
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my 2 cents.
Novell has had a worthwhile and stable product in Netware for years. Yes, they've made money off us. But I've saved more money running Netware 3.11 through 6.5 than I would have spent buying Microsoft and suffering through Exchange. They still aren't quite clear about where the next version of that is going, or when it's expected.
I'm pretty sure NDS will be around for a good long time, with Novell's support. It IS the backbone of the majority of their product line...

I've used GW, and I like it, but IMHO it doesn't always fit in smaller installations (< 500 users). I think Novell is making a smart move by branching out. Novell can't make the mistake of tying itself to a single mail-collaboration client strategy when there's market demand for Outlook or clones.

And when you've already released a very viable, stable Linux server (SLES9) available to run alongside Netware, why not an Exchange replacement on Linux/Netware? I wouldn't be suprised if Novell blended them together over the next few years, but I just don't see Novell just abandoning GW without a good migration path for users.
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