Novell is making a bold open source move by offering customers the choice of a Linux or Netware kernel for its Netware operating system by autumn of next year.
As exclusively revealed by vnunet.com last week, Novell has confirmed that services that currently run on Netware will be available to companies running Linux with Netware 7.0, which is expected 18 months after version 6.5, due out this summer.
Novell chairman and chief executive Jack Messman said: "The Netware path forward will include Linux as well."
By giving customers the option of running Novell services such as file and print and collaboration on Linux, the company hopes to stabilise the market share of the operating system and attract new customers.
Speaking at Novell's Brainshare conference in Utah, Messman said: "We are going to support customers in making Linux a viable data centre platform. You can stay with Netware and Novell services for as long as you want.
"We will make sure Netware and Linux can co-exist and work in customer environments. It's about choice: you can run services on whatever platform you want. You do not have to abandon Novell services to move to Linux."
Messman would not reveal which flavour of Linux the company would use, but said: "You won't see any unique flavours."
Novell customers currently on maintenance will have a Netware and Linux option in the future. "We will not abandon you, and you do not have to abandon us to get the technology you need," Messman promised.
The Linux kernel option should reassure customers about the future of Netware so that some may actually feel less pressure to migrate to Linux, Messman told vnunet.com.
"It is my opinion that people will stick with [the] Netware [kernel]. Once they get the [Linux] option they won't accept it. The Netware kernel is better than the Linux kernel."
The company also hopes that existing Linux users will be attracted to the Novell services.
But Messman was careful to reassure Novell's large Netware install base.
"We are not dropping Netware; I want to make that clear. We are just adding Linux," he said.
"Linux and Netware can co-exist in customer environments. Customers do not have to abandon Netware to get to Linux."
Gerard Van Kemmel, Novell's European president, said the move should reassure customers.
"Some of our clients are being pushed to move to Linux to save on costs, and some of our bigger clients were preoccupied with 'where is Netware going?'
"Strategically it is a very good move for Novell. Some clients will choose to move to Linux because of the overall move to Linux that is happening, but some of them will now have more reassurance [about the future]."
Paul Gardner, chairman of the Novell Users Association, said: "People are not likely to consider Netware in a new environment when Microsoft has all the clout of its marketing behind it and Linux is available on a cost-effective basis."
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