While many customers have tentatively embraced Novell Inc.s latest foray into the world of open source, the company still faces stiff challenges in trying to persuade NetWare customers to choose SuSE Linux over Windows or Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux.
To ease such a transition to SuSE Linux, the Waltham, Mass., company earlier this month released its OES (Open Enterprise Server), which places NetWare services on top of the NetWare or SuSE Linux Enterprise Edition kernel.
Novell CEO and Chairman Jack Messman said at the companys BrainShare event here last week that a key to Novells success will be its ability to migrate those NetWare customers to Linux.
“We are giving customers choice, and so when they now look at license renewals, they also look at Linux,” Messman said.
“In many cases Microsoft [Corp.] comes to the table and keeps their business by lowering its prices. But how long can they sustain that?”
Microsoft hasnt given up the fight.
The Redmond, Wash., software company and partner Quest Software Inc., based in Irvine, Calif., said last week they have migrated more than 1.5 million NetWare users to Windows Server 2003 in the past three years.
Microsoft also touted a Yankee Group Research Inc. study of 100 NetWare users, 80 percent of whom said they will be migrating off NetWare to Windows Server 2003 by next year, with 14 percent saying they will move to Red Hat Linux and just 6 percent saying they will switch to SuSE Linux.
Novell executives, partners and some customers dismissed the data, calling it little more than Microsoft propaganda.
“The biggest benefit for us of Novell embracing open source and Linux is that it gives us a flexibility that we just did not have before,” said Roger Fenner, infrastructure services manager for Cincinnati-based Comair, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc.
“We were very limited in our infrastructure choices before, but this open model has created new opportunities for us.”
Rate of migration
Michael Zepernick, president of Computer Integrated Services Co. of New York LLC, said he has seen a slowdown in the rate of migration of customers from NetWare to Windows Server 2003.
“The migration numbers cited in the Yankee study would more accurately have reflected the situation a few years ago, but that has slowed dramatically, particularly as Novell now offers NetWare customers the choice of running OES on Linux as well,” Zepernick said.
Novell executives said there is always user migration between platforms and that the 1.5 million users touted by Microsoft represent less than 2 percent of the NetWare installed base.
“We are certainly not seeing any significant increase in the rate of user migrations, and we are confident that this months release of OES will help slow down that migration trend,” said Ed Anderson, Linux platform and services vice president at Novell.
“We are also aggressively targeting those Microsoft [Windows] NT customers who are looking at their migration options given the end of life for support for that product. As such, we may start winning over even more dissatisfied Windows customers.”
Messman said the company is hearing from CIOs that they believe Linux is enterprise-ready and holds key benefits for them.
For example, Linux helps simplify and streamline IT, especially as it has a common code base from the desktop to the server to the data center, and enables IT staffs to be more productive and efficient.
Addressing application support for Novells Linux platform, Messman said there are now 1,400 certified products on SuSE Linux.
“Linux is expanding its reach into the enterprise, and we will continue to support and fuel this growth,” he said.