Novell CEO Embraces Open Source

In his LinuxWorld keynote, Novell CEO Jack Messman sounded very much like a believer in the open-source way as he prepares to transform Novell into not just a Linux company, but an open-source one as well.

NEW YORK—Novell Inc.s Linux coming out party at LinuxWorld here was rained on by The SCO Group Inc.s copyright lawsuit, but CEO Jack Messman didnt let that stop him in the opening keynote speech from making Novells moment in the sun bright.

Ignoring SCOs lawsuit, Messman, wearing a SuSE pin, declared, "2004 will be the year that Linux goes mainstream on the enterprise server and … the desktop [will] soon follow." The fact "that Im here doing the keynote is an important message in itself," he added. "It shows that a traditional 20-year-old enterprise software company can embrace the open-source model."

Indeed, Messman thinks open source will become "the dominant model for enterprise software." He emphasized that Novell will "not seek to change the open-source model, but … will embrace the open-source model. Novell will marry its understanding of enterprise software and open source." After all, he added, Novell is wagering its billion-dollar future on Linux and open source.

Messman offered a to-do list to help vendors both sell Linux to enterprise customers and use open source successfully. "Open source is about thinking differently both as a vendor and a customer," he said. "Its about control. Open source changes the control relationship. The vendors lose control, but they also get new marketing chances. At the same time, customers get to see the code. Its a win-win for both sides."

Still, CIOs find open source daunting. "When something goes wrong, they want one phone number to call and one throat to choke," he said. Vendors like Novell must package open source and Linux to make it easier for customers to make that one call to get their problems solved.

"Customers want security because so many people can find and fix vulnerabilities," Messman said. "Customers are confused by this process, so we need to give them better patch management to give customers peace of mind."

Next page: A need for indemnification.