Novell, Red Hat Staking New Linux Territory

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2003-11-10 Print this article Print

The bold operating system moves made last week by Novell and Red Hat create a new battleground in the consolidating Linux space and leave each company with a host of new challenges.

The bold operating system moves made last week by Novell Inc. and Red Hat Inc. create a new battleground in the consolidating Linux space and leave each company with a host of new challenges.

Novells $210 million purchase of SuSE Linux AG is the vendors second acquisition this year, following the purchase of open-source developer Ximian Inc. in August. A sweetener to this deal is that IBM plans to take a $50 million stake in Novell, of Provo, Utah.

IBM and Novell are negotiating extensions to existing agreements between IBM and SuSE for the support of SuSE Linux on IBMs eServer products.

Prior to Novells SuSE announcement, Red Hat, of Raleigh, N.C., e-mailed customers announcing the company would no longer update its consumer Red Hat Linux line after April. The move automatically gave Novell a leg up in the consumer and desktop Linux space.

Although Red Hat intends to push customers to Red Hats Enterprise Linux server and workstation software, which carries an annual subscription fee, some said the move is misguided.

"Desktops are used by enterprise customers," said Stacy Quandt, an analyst at the Open Source Development Lab, in Beaverton, Ore. "Red Hat is considering the desktop a consumer play and not looking at the adoption of desktops in enterprises. Thats a big disadvantage."

But its a disadvantage Novell itches to exploit. Check out eWEEKs interview with Novell CEO Jack Messman SuSE Linux CEO Richard Seibt. Thats because the SuSE deal gives Novell a viable alternative to Red Hat, based on technical and financial merits, Quandt said. In fact, Novell has the potential to replace Red Hat as the leading Linux distributor in the United States, she said.

But while Novell customers and resellers welcome the move to shore up the companys Linux offerings, they believe the open-source development process has its downside.

"With NetWare, Novell was in control of their own software development destiny," said John Kretz, president of Enlightened Point Consulting Group LLC, in Phoenix, which runs NetWare, Windows 2000 and Red Hat systems. "But now Novell will find itself held against the double-edged sword of open source: They may own SuSE, but they dont control the kernel development."

"I wonder how long it will be before that starts eating away at Novell, waiting for Linus [Torvalds] to bless features and releases," Kretz said. "I wonder if Novell will ultimately have the guts to fork the Linux kernel development and start their own branch."

Donald Barber, a senior technical support specialist for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Enterprise IT delivery department, is enthusiastic about the move, saying Novell has proved that it has the skills to produce solutions that solve key business issues. The migration to Linux was a natural progression to provide the stability and functionality of NetWare on the proven, solid Linux platform, Barber said.

"This deal has increased our desire to begin pursuing a Novell/Linux solution. The migration that has taken place from NetWare to Windows is nothing more than customers responding to well-advertised misinformation regarding the benefits of Microsoft [Corp.] products," Barber said.

Novell officials said the network services in NetWare 7, the next version of the product, will work on the Linux and NetWare kernels. Novell will also offer its network services, Nterprise, on Linux. The first release of that is due next month, with the second release following six to nine months later and containing all the services in NetWare 6.5 today on top of Linux, officials said.

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Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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