New Day, New Novell

Linux & Open-Source Center Editor Steven Vaughan-Nichols found out at BrainShare that Novell and all its many partners are finding new life and hope in Linux.

Before coming to Novells annual ring-dang-do of a trade show, BrainShare, here in Salt Lake City, I wondered just how much Linux support I would find at it. I knew Novells brass loved Linux, and I knew business Linux supporters loved it, but what would Novells old-school partners, developers and resellers think of all of these Linux moves?

Answer: They loved it.

When Linux kernel author Linus Torvalds showed up for a quick visit Monday, they stood and applauded as if he were a rock star.

For the first time since the launch of NetWare 4.0 back in 1993, Novell staffers and partners are excited—I mean really excited—about the companys direction.

There is a buzz at BrainShare, Novells annual party and trade show for true Novell believers, that I havent seen surrounding the company in ages.

Heck, its hard to believe Im writing "buzz" and Novell in the same sentence. Novell has been seen as a declining and, lets just say it, boring company since feisty CEO Ray Noorda retired in 1994.

A big part of the new spark is that the Novell supporters believe, or at least want to believe, in Linux. Another part of it is that they see Novell finally making a big, bold move. For too long, Novell has been seen as moving slowly and cautiously in a world where Microsoft moved quickly with dash and elan.

Even the developers, the group I thought most likely to be slow to warm up to Linux, like it. You see, developing for NetWare is, in big capital letters, not easy.

Running NetWare, like any network server operating system, isnt easy, but a motivated, bright, technical person can manage it. Anyone who can master Unix or Linux administration can learn to run NetWare. Programming NetWare, now that takes a special breed. What could these people, who had spent years mastering NetWares APIs and NetWare Loadable Modules (NLMs), think of leaving those hard-won skill sets behind to pick up Linux programming? But not one of the dozen old-school NetWare programmers I spoke with was upset by Novells move.

Why, even the resellers, a cynical, "show me the money" crew as they are for most companies, were, dare I say it, downright cheery about the Linux move. You see, resellers are the people on the front line of technology. Theyre the ones who have to take the product and make it work for customers in the real world. Its a hard job, since nothing ever works as well in Joes Sandbox Company as it does in the showroom.

Resellers have every right to be cynical about the promises of new technology. Theyve seen far too many of those promises broken. Theyre the ones left holding the bag when outraged customers demand that they fix the new, shiny program that just barfed all over accounts receivables. And even the embittered vets of the technology wars are excited about Linux. Amazing, simply amazing.

One reason for resellers happiness is that Open Enterprise Server will include both NetWare and Linux. Thus, neither they nor their customers are forced to upgrade to Linux. Resellers and end-users alike hate feeling like theyre being made to move to a new system when their old one still does its job. Thus, they dont have to worry about legacy customers being forced to choose to support one or the other.

Its a new day, a new dawn, for Novell. And its not just Novell saying it. Its the people who support Novell, who build their business lives around Novell, who are enjoying the return of new light and life to an old company. Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Be sure to add our Linux news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page: