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.”
Touching briefly on SCO, Messman said just because “we question SCOs claims doesnt mean we cant dismiss them. CIOs will worry about their intellectual property risk. We, all Linux vendors, need to provide indemnification.”
“[By taking] care of [issues], CIOs will place open source in the middle of their corporate IT infrastructure.” After all, “the total cost of ownership for Linux numbers are good. You can do more with less cost with Linux. Studies that show otherwise have been sponsored by special interests,” he said.
Messman spent the rest of his keynote speaking about how open source changes not only technology models but business models as well. You can make money with open source, but you need to forget about the license being a revenue source, he said. “This doesnt come easily, but its a lesson that companies need to learn. Its not easy for Novell as a company with 20 years of proprietary software, but its something we, and other companies, must do.”
On the other hand, “although we acquired Ximian and SuSE, its their employees that have already had a great effect on our company, and its corporate development culture. Novell has had a bad case of not invented here syndrome. Weve had trouble overcoming our legacy, and we didnt have in-house expertise, but now with Ximian and SuSE, were learning. Ximians 70 employees have directly affected Novell developers with open-source mojo.”
Novell will be starting a Novell Certified Linux Engineer program, according to Messman. Certifications, he noted, have gotten too easy and have lost their value in the marketplace. “Ours will require practical experience as well as passing hard tests.”
Looking ahead, Messman sees Linux making great gains in data centers running mission-critical applications He also foresees “desktops gaining real traction” even though he feels the desktop still needs more work.
“With SuSE and Ximian, weve gained two open-source gems,” he said. “We will give more than we take from open source. We will promote Linux development. Novell will push Linux desktops, create Linux ISVs. We will not mess this one up. Ximian and SuSE wont let us. We acquired them, but theyll be leading the way.” When it comes to open source, “we will practice what we preach,” Messman said.