"We will protect your NetWare investment now and in the future," Messman said.
Todays Novell, however, is teamed up with the Linux penguin.
"Bringing our long history of enterprise expertise together with Linux, Novell has staked a serious claim to leadership in the enterprise Linux space," Messman said. "In addition, the technology were showcasing this year around our platform offerings, identity management, Web services and resource management provides a comprehensive set of cost-effective answers to the most pressing IT questions customers face today."
Of course, it wouldnt be a Novell show without a few potshots at Microsoft. "This year, BrainShare doesnt need no stinkin Windows," Messman said, announcing that this year the entire conference is being run on Linux. "Its all about open source now."
He reinforced that sentiment by announcing the Novell Open Enterprise Server (OES). This new operating system platform "is a solution composed of NetWare 7, the recently announced SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and a rich collection of networking services, including Nterprise Linux Services, which will transparently interoperate between the two environments," Messman said.
"For example, if you have NetWare servers delivering your print services and SUSE Linux servers running your file system, or vice versa, you can print between the two, independent of where the files reside." OES will arrive later this year, he said.
In a question-and-answer session that followed, Messman said, "The delivery date for Open Enterprise Server has been brought forward by a year. Moving all network services to Linux was made easier, since we moved the first one last year. The tools and applications that came with Ximian and SuSE made it easier for us to integrate all of this and to bring forward the release date by a year."
Messman and Novell vice chairman Chris Stone also stressed that Novell has every intention to not only reclaim its place as a top server company but also to become a serious desktop operating system company as well.
"The units on the Linux desktop would be greater than on the server side, but the profits would still remain larger on the server side," Messman said. "We want to have very tight integration between what happens on the desktop and what happens on the server."
Stone added, "The numbers on the Linux desktop are growing and may even be greater than for the Mac at the moment. The opportunities here are growing, and this segment has grown far more rapidly than many of us expected."
Outlining his vision for Novells future, Messman said the services that accompany Linux are what would drive the companys profits in that space.
"While there is not a lot of profit on the Linux operating system per se, selling the services that go along with that is where the revenue comes from. So the extent to which people adopt Linux and need those up-the-stack services, thats the extent to which our Linux business will grow and be profitable. We will do well as long as Linux stays in the limelight and users buy it."
Messman continued, "We will be profitable again this year, thats all the guidance were giving. Youll get underpromise and overdeliver from me on that front. Managing the climate from the present to the future is the greatest challenge we face, and I want to grow the market for Linux and to use the profits from other parts of the business to do that."
Novell also delivered on its promise to contribute to the open-source community. The company is making its leading SUSE Linux systems management tool, Yet another Setup Tool (YaST), available as open source to help the Linux systems-management initiative. The company is also putting its Novell iFolder technology, a personal storage and filing solution built on Mono, into the open-source community. Messman said he hopes both initiatives will help drive development of enterprise-class solutions for Linux.
The highlight of the keynote, though, was the surprise appearance of Linus Torvalds, who wrote the Linux kernel. After an enthusiastic welcome, Torvalds answered a few questions. As usual, he concentrated on technical matters dealing with the kernel. He summed up his central concern as, "I care about making Linux as good as I can make it."
While not endorsing Novell Linux, Torvalds made it clear that he thinks Novell might be "the next big thing in Linux."