Novell Tightens Its Open-Source Embrace

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-04-27

Novell Tightens Its Open-Source Embrace

Novell is continuing its embrace of the open-source community with new hires and the promise of even greater integration with key open-source projects.

Novell Inc. has just hired Jeremy Allison, co-author of the Samba open-source software suite, which delivers file and print services to SMB/CIFS (Server Message Block/Common Internet File System) clients.

Novell recently opened some of its eDirectory code to the open-source community, including Samba, to enable the Samba project to use eDirectory as its authentication engine. Samba can be run on a platform other than Windows, such as Unix or Linux, and can allow that host to interact with a Microsoft Windows client or server as if it were a Windows file and print server.

Click here for a review saying that Samba 3.0 does Windows even better.

Allisons expertise could help Novell in many ways, but primarily he will stick to both his own and what has long been part of Novells bread and butter: file sharing.

"Novells known for file sharing, which is what I do on a day-to-day basis," Allison said in an interview with eWEEK. "There is just a very good fit with what I do and what Novell wanted."

Allison, who up to now had been employed at Hewlett-Packard Co. as well as maintaining his Samba duties, said after attending Novells 2004 BrainShare conference, "I was incredibly impressed with how much of a Linux company theyve become."

And true to his open-source roots, Allison managed to negotiate a contract with Novell that allows him to continue to give back to the community.

"Theyve given me a contract that allows me to release everything I do," he said.

"They are very committed to open source," Allison said of his new employer—where he will begin work Thursday. "They will still continue to make money off of their proprietary platforms, but in terms of core infrastructure, they are committed to open source."

Indeed, that commitment is what is driving Novell to continue to cozy up to the open-source community, first by acquiring Ximian in 2003, which was an open-source company working to deliver the GNOME Linux desktop and the Mono open-source platform for running Microsoft .Net applications, and then by acquiring SuSE Linux last year.

Also last year, Novell moved to shore up its middleware strategy by entering into a relationship with JBoss Inc. to enable Novell users to deploy applications on the JBoss open-source application server. The two companies followed that up with another announcement at this years BrainShare conference in March, where Novell said it would extend support and would contribute code and engineering resources to the open-source JEMS (JBoss Enterprise Middleware System).

Sources say the companies now are looking toward even further integration, as the JBoss application server has become the replacement for Novells own application server, SilverStream, which the company scrapped a couple of years ago.

"The JBoss relationship is a very interesting one for Novell, because we used to have our own application server called SilverStream, but that is no more," Carl Drisko, who heads Linux and open-source services for Novell, said at the Linux on Wall Street conference in New York last week. "We have shifted over to add JBoss" as the preferred application server for Novell users.

But Drisko said Novell has been involved with open source since "well before those acquisitions, and weve been a major contributor to the open-source community, to projects like GNOME, Open Office and Mono."

"We support JBoss, MySQL and other things coming up the stack," Drisko said. "And we dont think it will be long before you can get your ERP [enterprise resource planning] and CRM [customer relationship management] systems from open-source providers as well."

Next Page: Looking at Linux adoption on the desktop.

Linux on the Desktop

Regarding Linux and open-source adoption on the desktop, Drisko said he sees "some tremendous adoption about to happen," noting that Novell has seen proposals calling for "250,000 or more desktops."

"There is also great adoption in Europe. Were on the cusp of widespread adoption by customers, including governments and corporate entities like call centers."

"Middleware and database is where we think the action really is today," Peter Fenton, a partner at Accel Partners, a Palo Alto, Calif., venture capital firm that was an initial investor in JBoss, said at TheServerSide Java Symposium last month in Las Vegas. "In middleware, if youre not open source, youd have to come up with a good reason youre not."

Click here to read about JBoss Application Server 4.0.

In his presentation, aimed at potential entrepreneurs and startups, Fenton said Accel invested in JBoss "because they had critical mass. They were number one with developers, they were number one with ISVs before venture capital, and theyre now number one in production. And they were attacking a large, high-growth area."

Fenton also said Accel viewed JBoss as competitive in that the company appeared to be on a path to capture 50 percent market share or more, a factor Accel looks for in the companies it invests in.

Other elements Accel considers in signing up entrepreneurs include "unbounded passion, paranoia and persistence, real value for customers, diversity in the DNA, risk management and irreverence." Of which he added, "Marc Fleury [CEO of JBoss] has this in spades."

Meanwhile, Novells Allison said he will help to evangelize Novells open-source story along with Miguel de Icaza, co-founder and former chief technology officer at Ximian and now vice president of developer platforms at Novell.

"Well share the load on evangelizing," Allison said. He added that he will start work at Novell on Thursday without a title that he knows of.

"I have not a clue," Allison said when asked his new title at Novell. "Ive managed without a title at HP for over three years now, so I dont think itll be a problem."

Meanwhile, at the Linux on Wall Street conference, Drisko also highlighted Novells effort to deliver an open-source collaboration server called Hula. The company announced the initiative in February at LinuxWorld in Boston. Novell contributed more than 200,000 lines of code from its NetMail server to the project, which will deliver e-mail, calendaring and address-book functionality.

"We figured it would move much faster with others helping to do development around it," Drisko said.

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