Novell Tightens Its Open-Source Embrace

The company hires Jeremy Allison, co-author of the Samba open-source software suite, and vows to bring greater integration with key open-source projects.

Novell is continuing its embrace of the open-source community with new hires and the promise of even greater integration with key open-source projects.

Novell Inc. has just hired Jeremy Allison, co-author of the Samba open-source software suite, which delivers file and print services to SMB/CIFS (Server Message Block/Common Internet File System) clients.

Novell recently opened some of its eDirectory code to the open-source community, including Samba, to enable the Samba project to use eDirectory as its authentication engine. Samba can be run on a platform other than Windows, such as Unix or Linux, and can allow that host to interact with a Microsoft Windows client or server as if it were a Windows file and print server.

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Allisons expertise could help Novell in many ways, but primarily he will stick to both his own and what has long been part of Novells bread and butter: file sharing.

"Novells known for file sharing, which is what I do on a day-to-day basis," Allison said in an interview with eWEEK. "There is just a very good fit with what I do and what Novell wanted."

Allison, who up to now had been employed at Hewlett-Packard Co. as well as maintaining his Samba duties, said after attending Novells 2004 BrainShare conference, "I was incredibly impressed with how much of a Linux company theyve become."

And true to his open-source roots, Allison managed to negotiate a contract with Novell that allows him to continue to give back to the community.

"Theyve given me a contract that allows me to release everything I do," he said.

"They are very committed to open source," Allison said of his new employer—where he will begin work Thursday. "They will still continue to make money off of their proprietary platforms, but in terms of core infrastructure, they are committed to open source."

Indeed, that commitment is what is driving Novell to continue to cozy up to the open-source community, first by acquiring Ximian in 2003, which was an open-source company working to deliver the GNOME Linux desktop and the Mono open-source platform for running Microsoft .Net applications, and then by acquiring SuSE Linux last year.

Also last year, Novell moved to shore up its middleware strategy by entering into a relationship with JBoss Inc. to enable Novell users to deploy applications on the JBoss open-source application server. The two companies followed that up with another announcement at this years BrainShare conference in March, where Novell said it would extend support and would contribute code and engineering resources to the open-source JEMS (JBoss Enterprise Middleware System).

Sources say the companies now are looking toward even further integration, as the JBoss application server has become the replacement for Novells own application server, SilverStream, which the company scrapped a couple of years ago.

"The JBoss relationship is a very interesting one for Novell, because we used to have our own application server called SilverStream, but that is no more," Carl Drisko, who heads Linux and open-source services for Novell, said at the Linux on Wall Street conference in New York last week. "We have shifted over to add JBoss" as the preferred application server for Novell users.

But Drisko said Novell has been involved with open source since "well before those acquisitions, and weve been a major contributor to the open-source community, to projects like GNOME, Open Office and Mono."

"We support JBoss, MySQL and other things coming up the stack," Drisko said. "And we dont think it will be long before you can get your ERP [enterprise resource planning] and CRM [customer relationship management] systems from open-source providers as well."

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