April 11, 2006 11:53 AM PDT

Novell's shift to open source makes slow progress

Novell may be evangelizing Linux and Open Office on the desktop, but more than half of its own employees can still boot Microsoft Windows and Office if they wish.

Ron Hovsepian, Novell's president, speaking at a press event in Sydney, said that "about 2,000 employees right now out of 5,000 are single-boot only, which is Linux only, the rest are dual-boot." He said that a project to migrate the 3,000 dual-boot workers to open source is likely to be completed over the next year or so.

The shift from Microsoft Windows and Office to the open-source software was first mooted in March 2004, when Novell Chief Information Officer Debra Anderson was handed the task.

At the time, Anderson said she hoped most of Novell's staff would have moved to Linux and the OpenOffice.org office suite by mid-2005.

Hovsepian's remarks indicate Novell will have at most a few months' experience as a complete Linux and open-source desktop shop behind it when, according to the company's predictions, the software starts taking off in the mainstream. He told CNET News.com on Friday that Linux on the desktop would start taking off over the next 12 to 18 months, with the scheduled mid-2006 release of Suse Linux Desktop 10 being one of the factors fueling growth.

However, while Hovsepian stressed that Novell was "in the process of finishing the migration right now," and Anderson acknowledged back in 2004 that the numbers would never be clear-cut because of dual-booting scenarios, the lengthy time frame required raises questions about the practical challenges for businesses examining a move to desktop Linux and open-source software.

Hovsepian said in Sydney that Novell's desktop Linux implementation had been missing some of the pieces businesses needed, but said version 10 of the software would help the market for desktop Linux adoption.

Regarding his company's own Linux migration, Hovsepian said it had learned a lot from the implementation and had overcome challenges involving, for example, porting macros from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org.

"We've had actually very good success with it," he said. "We learned a lot about migration tools, learned a lot about what the usability pieces are."

Renee LeMay of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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26 comments

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Migrating seems to = forcing
It is so great and so cost effective and they themselves can't get their own employees to dump Windows?!!! Amazing.
Posted by J. Blow (193 comments )
Reply Link Flag
View from Novell
As one of the Novellians with single boot Linux, I find this story a bit misleading. First, Ron was talking generalities, and the number of single boot Linux employees today is nearly 2300, so approaching 50 percent. As for dual boot, I was dual boot Linux for roughly a year before I went to the single boot. I hardly touched the Windows side of things in that period, and didn't use Windows at all in the last 6 months. But Microsoft makes it hard to remove Windows, and I didn't get around to doing it. I suspect many in Novell are in the same boat.

On a second level, we said from the start that we'd be doing a two-stage migration, first to OpenOffice, second to Linux. All of Novell is on OpenOffice now, and, as of Monday of last week, our standard for document exchange at Novell is OpenDocument formats, the default in OpenOffice 2.0. So we are very much moving into a full open source environment.

The underlying suggestion of this article - that Novell's strategy is somehow flawed because of our own speed of transition - just doesn't hold water. We've got plenty of people - including power users - on full Linux and OpenOffice environments.

Thanks.

Bruce Lowry
Novell
Posted by blowry (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Question
Hey Bruce,

What are you guys using for an email clint and server?
Posted by Arrgster (92 comments )
Link Flag
20 cents a day
If you keep XP and Office for 5 years, it costs companies about 20 - 30 cents a day for Microsoft software.

On average, if you get paid say ... 20$ an hour, thats about 1 minute a day.

Is there any chance you lost more than 1 minute a day in productivity in this switch?

If so, why bother?

And, finally, why is Novell continuing to do stupid things like this, and buying WordPerfect, instead of doing something useful for its stockholders?
Posted by NotParker (19 comments )
Link Flag
View from Novell (continued)
Another point I should have mentioned... Novell delivers cross-platform solutions. So we need multiple platforms to test this out. We always run our own solutions internally before we sell them externally. So we'll have developers with multiple machines, including Windows, for some time. We also have sales guys who will need to provide demos to customers on what those customers have - including Windows. We'll continue to have some Windows machines in Novell's environment for the foreseeable future. So, again, you can't read too much into just an aggregate number of single vs. dual boot machines. We're moving to Linux, and it's working. Thanks.
Posted by blowry (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another employee
As a software engineer in Novell, I still have a dual boot machine so that I can develop/debug on Windows. It is one of the platforms that our products run on. Whenever my manager asks if I still have a dual-boot machine, I tell him yes, but that doesn't mean that it is my primary desktop machine (I'm using my Linux box to post this comment). Even given another year, we will still have many employees with dual boot machines for a variety of reasons as Bruce has already mentioned.
Posted by dvwilbur (2 comments )
Link Flag
10's of thousands of security holes in open source
There 10's of thousands of security holes in open source.

You need to update packages every day to keep up.

Thats costly.
Posted by NotParker (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Still clueless
Yes, there are flaws in open source programs. However, MS software has at least 100 to 1 open source flaw.

Another thing is that when flaws in open source are found they are fixed in a matter of days, sometimes hours. Compare that to the weeks, months and years of MS.

When you do have to download a patch, you can keep working. Required rebooting is extremely rare, and even restating your windowing enviroment is rarely needed. So downtime is very minimal, unlike winblows.

Your living must be dependant on the ineptitude of MS.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
trolling
Hey man. stop this! You're loosing it :-)
But seriously, remarks like "10's of thousands
of security holes in open source" are really
going too far. But I guess that's what happens
when you "feed a troll".
Posted by (7 comments )
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