Novell buying SuSE may be the smartest thing either company ever did. Yes, Im serious.
Think about it. Novell had great stuff all down the enterprise line: first-class directory services with eDirectory; rock-solid groupware with GroupWise; the exteND suite is as good a Web services and application server platform thats out there today; the list goes on and on. There was only one thing missing: an operating system.
Listen, I liked NetWare as much as anyone did, but its been a long, long time since NetWare 3.11 was the local area network operating system of choice. Slowly, but at an ever-increasing rate, NetWare customers were turning to Unix, Linux or (oh, the agony of it all!) Windows operating systems. And, nothing, but nothing, was ever going to bring NetWare back.
So, what did Novell do? Well, first it hitched its wagon to Linux back last spring. But Novell is not an IBM. For Novell to prosper, it needed to do more than just heartily support Linux with its network-service offerings; it needed a closer connection. Novell needed what it got: a Linux of its own.
And what did SuSE need? The German Linux giant needed several things. It needed capital, and it needed a way to jump from being a big company in the still relatively small Linux-business world to being a global company in the enterprise-business world. Guess what? SuSE got what it wanted, too.
Together, Novell and SuSE can deliver top-of-the-line enterprise programs on a best of breed operating system from the desktop to the server. Whats not to like?
Well, there are a couple of things. Novell and SuSE executives said all the right things on Tuesday: “Hurrah for open source!;”; “Well work closely with our resellers;” “Were keeping the SuSE brand and employees”; “Were working with our partners”; and so on. Now comes the hard part: doing all that.
Some of it will be easy. I believe that Novell really does support open source and understands it. Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone said that Novell didnt just jump into Linux and open source. Novell spent a long time studying the issues and the business model and then the Utah firm made its move. Im sure that Novell did just that. Its how Novell traditionally makes decisions.
So thats all good, but Novell still needs to get its people working together on the same page. That might prove a real problem. Novell is a very cool, thinking operation that makes slow deliberate moves. This acquisition is a perfect example. SuSE … Well, heck, SuSE is a Linux company, born of the dot-com boom. Its hot and fast. Getting staffs used to such two different ways of approaching problems will be a challenge.
Novell also needs to make sure all its resellers and partners are on board. The good news: As far as I can tell after a day of phone calls and e-mails, its resellers and partners do seem happy. And, interestingly enough, companies like HP and Computer Associates (CA) have been calling me to tell me that they support Novells move. That is not how companies usually support another companys move. I take this to mean that they really like this acquisition
IBM, of course, has put its money where its operating system is. As Mike Darcy, an IBM spokesperson, told me, this is “consistent with what IBM has done in the past. Weve invested in Linux in the past, and this investment just means that IBM customers can be sure of strong, continued support for SuSE Linux across our family of eServers and our middleware offerings.”
So let me see: Smart move for both companies? Check. All partners so far are on board with the deal? Check. Linux, along with Novell and SuSE, ready to take a giant step forward in the enterprise? Check, and if Novell has anything to say about it, mate. Smart move, guys; a very smart move.
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eWEEK.com Linux & Open Source Center Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about Unix and Linux since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.