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Novell Takes Mixed Software Approach

Vendor combines open-source and proprietary software to fight Microsoft again
Novell, once the leading supplier of networking software, is determined to be a complete provider of infrastructure and operating-system technology. It plans to add software for managing IT assets, user identities, and storage. At its BrainShare conference last week, the company showed its willingness to buy, borrow, and develop the technology needed to go another round with Microsoft. This time, Novell is building on a combination of open-source and proprietary offerings.

"We're focused on Linux and identity," chairman and CEO Jack Messman said at a BrainShare press conference.

Novell plans to buy Tally Systems Corp. and complement Novell's ZENworks 7 Linux Management suite with Tally's IT-asset-management software. Introduced earlier this month, ZENworks 7 marks the first time Novell has taken its Linux-management offerings beyond the basic software and patch-management capabilities available through Red Carpet Enterprise, a product it acquired along with Ximian in 2003.

"Novell sees a need in the market for standards-based enterprise computing," says Dan Kusnetzky, IDC's VP for system-software research. "They seem to feel they have the opportunity to be the steward of open-source software for enterprises."

Novell is expanding its relationship with JBoss Inc. to make the open-source JBoss Enterprise Middleware System a big part of Novell's identity-management technology. Novell plans to extend support and contribute code and engineering resources to JBoss middleware and actively participate in the architectural design and direction of JBoss projects, including the JBoss portal. Novell also is stepping up its partnership with Veritas Software Corp. to deliver storage-management and high-availability software to companies expanding their Linux operations.

Perhaps Novell's greatest challenge is convincing potential customers that its blend of open-source and proprietary software is the future. "Novell isn't focused on open source to the exclusion of everything [else]," Kusnetzky says. This puts the company in a unique position to compete with both Microsoft and Linux vendor Red Hat Inc., which represent opposite ends of the proprietary and open-source software spectrum.

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer