Novell Exec: Dont Fear Open Source, Embrace It

Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone opens OSBC 2004 by encouraging software vendors to consider how open source can complement and expand their business.

SAN FRANCISCO—Rather than viewing open source as a threat, IT software vendors must embrace the software development model and understand how it can fit into their core business, a Novell Inc. executive said in the opening keynote of the Open Source Business Conference 2004 here.

"Those who fear the rise in open source just dont get it," said Chris Stone, Novell vice chairman in the office of the CEO. "What are you in business to do? This is about complements and substitutes—which open-source models pose a threat to your business and which pose an opportunity."

The first-ever conference focused solely on open-source business models, OSBC 2004 is expected to draw about 700 attendees, organizers said. Software vendors and venture capitalists dominate the attendees, which also include a smattering of IT managers. Even Microsoft Corp., considered one of open sources archenemies, is a sponsor and speaking at the event.

Stone said open source does not spell the end of proprietary software but is invigorating the market with a "religious devotion to customers." Proprietary software vendors must focus on providing software and services at a higher level in the software stack, he said.

Open source is opening more choices for customers and exposing flaws in the proprietary software model, including its tendency to lock customers into a specific vendor and to force them to upgrade.

"The problem with the software business in the last 30 years is that its been lock, load and shoot," Stone said. "Its how fast can we do the next thing while customer service and satisfaction is really the No. 1 issue."

Waltham, Mass.-based Novell itself offers a case study of a software vendor that came around to supporting open source. Five years ago, Novell was still focused on its proprietary NetWare network operating system and keeping customers locked into it, but the company over the last year has invested some $260 million in Linux and open source as another option for customers, Stone said.

That investment included the purchase of SUSE Linux AG and its Linux distribution, completed in January, and the acquisition in August of Ximian Inc., a Linux desktop and management suite.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about Novells NetWare Linux push in an eWEEK Labs review.

While focusing on how money can be made from open source, Stone also used his keynote to take a quick swipe at The SCO Group Inc.s CEO, Darl McBride. SCO, which is involved in a number of high-profile lawsuits claiming that Linux includes code from Unix code it owns, also has sued Novell.

"Sorry, Darl. Al Gore didnt invent the Internet and you didnt invent Linux or intellectual property law," Stone said, to a slight applause. "We believe that Unix is not in Linux and that Linux is a free and open distribution and should be and always will be."

One myth about open source is that rogue developers are controlling it. In reality, open-source developers are largely the same developers as those at major software companies and IT shops, and they follow a development process as strict and stable as proprietary development, Stone said.

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