Novell Forges Ahead

Ximian acquisition strengthens enterprise offerings, NetWare.

Novell Inc. is reaffirming its position in the enterprise with the acquisition of open-source developer Ximian Inc. and by sticking by its stalwart product, NetWare. Days after Novell announced the purchase of the Boston-based Linux developer last week, industry talk shifted to whether Linux was making NetWare irrelevant. Novell officials at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo here, however, dismissed such reports, telling eWEEK that the Provo, Utah, company has no plans for cutting NetWare development.

"Were into Linux; thats why were here [at the show]," said a Novell executive, who requested anonymity. "Thats why we bought Ximian. And we said that with Version 7.0, youll have a choice of either upgrading to NetWare or moving to Linux. But with $400 million of our revenue in NetWare, that would be ridiculous for us to abandon development on it."

Although Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone had been quoted as saying NetWare would continue in maintenance mode, Novell officials later said Stones comments were taken out of context. Novell spokesman Bruce Lowry said: "The whole thing with Linux is an additive thing. Were not dumping NetWare; were adding Linux."

Furthermore, Novell Chairman and CEO Jack Messman said in a statement, "We have announced that NetWare 7.0 is in development, that it will run on both the NetWare and Linux kernels. This is hardly a sign of reduced commitment. NetWare is not going away. Period."

Nor is Novell going to seek to tamper with Ximians open-source model, said Miguel de Icaza, former chief technology officer of Ximian, now CTO of Novells Ximian Services business unit.

"Even if there was a tiny concern from anyone [about open source], if Novell decided not to do open source, every line that has already been published cannot be taken back [from the open-source realm]. Once you give a present, you cannot take it back," said de Icaza. "The software will remain free. Novell not only is going to continue existing software projects but extend the involvement."

That involvement includes Ximians Desktop Version 2, Professional Edition, which is built on the GNU Network Object Model Environment foundation, and the Mono Project, an open-source version of Microsoft Corp.s .Net Framework. The first version of Mono is expected by the end of this year, de Icaza said.

Analysts said Novells moves solidify its position in the enterprise.

"The Ximian acquisition demonstrates that Novell is committed to a Linux and open-source future," said William Hurley, senior analyst with Enterprise Application Group, of Portland, Ore. "Quickly integrating the Ximian team and products, as it did with [the] SilverStream [Software Inc. acquisition], will assure customers and the market that Novell is not simply buying ... into a trend."

Novell also announced a new version of its GroupWise messaging and collaboration platform that runs on Linux. Novell plans to release GroupWise for Linux by the first half of next year. The product will include client and server services for e-mail, calendaring, instant messaging, contact management, document management and workflow. GroupWise currently supports NetWare and Windows NT/2000.