Novell to Announce New, Expanded Partnerships

At BrainShare, the company also will announce a deal that will see the SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 preloaded on hardware from a major vendor.

SALT LAKE CITY-Novell will use its annual BrainShare conference here March 17 to announce new and expanded partnerships as well as to show off some of the features and functionality of its upcoming SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11.

Novell officials told eWEEK that several new partnerships will be announced during the opening keynotes, including a major new deal that will see SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10 preloaded on some hardware from a major vendor.

SLED 10 recently started shipping on Dell and Lenovo boxes, and the company said at the time that it was looking for other OEM partners.

There will also be an announcement about a significant expansion of an existing relationship, the officials said, but they declined to give more specifics ahead of the conference.

Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian will also use his keynote address to talk about how the company plans to aggressively take on Microsoft's SharePoint solution with its recently released Teaming and Conferencing product.

"With our solution, customers do not need to upgrade their whole framework-as they do with Microsoft's solution-which saves them money, and they can easily integrate it into their environment from a standards perspective as it has broader and more open document storage capabilities," Hovsepian told eWEEK in an interview.

The core engine of Novell Teaming and Conferencing, which was released in September 2007, came from a SiteScape, which Novell acquired in February and which also built the event handler piece.

Novell has spent the last six months working on hardening and integrating that and making sure that everything flows through it correctly, Hovsepian said.

There is no real competitor to SharePoint at this time, he said.

"We saw the opportunity there and decided to go after it, taking the open-source path and helping build this up in the community and do something special with it to create a legitimate open-source alternative to SharePoint," he said.

While there are a couple of customer product trials under way, Hovsepian is bullish about the market opportunity for an alternative to SharePoint, "which has the added advantage of eventually tying into a desktop discussion. I call this the killer app," he said. "What drove NetWare was PCs and the need for the network: That was the killer app. It then migrated-we weren't paying attention-to the office productivity suite and e-mail systems. We are paying attention this time, and we are making sure to go after that innovative killer app."

Asked why SLED 10 has not taken any ground from Microsoft even though Windows Vista is being poorly received in the market, Hovsepian said reasons include examining why people change their desktop and considering factors such as what the market disruption needs to be to cause people to change their desktop and what they would upgrade to.

"We think that there will be a couple of key segments: There is the efficiency and control desktop segment, and we have a good chance to talk to them and bring them over to the Linux framework. We also have a good chance to move some of them to the other hot emerging category, which is thin clients. We have to build our credibility around that and then expand from there," he said.

Hovsepian is optimistic that some of those customers ditching Lotus Notes will come his way, "so that's why we're chasing this very aggressively."

The company is also doing well on other fronts, he said, with Novell GroupWise posting a 7 percent rise in invoicing last year and its Linux revenue growing 69 percent year-on-year to bypass the $100 million mark for the first time, which Hovsepian said is "moving in the right direction."

But that pales in comparison to Red Hat's Linux business, which generates revenue of about $125 million a quarter.

Hovsepian said the company is working hard at changing that differential, starting with large companies like HSBC, AIG, Credit Suisse and Costco, all of whom are standardizing on SUSE Linux.

"You have to start with those big anchor accounts, and then the rest starts to trickle down because then all the partners and vendors and everyone else want to be with them because customers drive it at the end of the day," he said.