SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Novell Inc. has announced an enterprise operating platform that brings together its existing NetWare platform with the company’s newly acquired SuSE LINUX and Ximian offerings to give customers a clear path for migration to Linux.

Novell will start shipping Novell Open

Enterprise Server, which combines both NetWare and Linux kernels, by the end of this year — a year ahead of schedule. Pricing, licensing and availability details will be announced at a later date, according to the company.

Novell chairman and CEO Jack Messman made the announcement in his keynote speech that kicked off this year’s BrainShare conference March 21-24. “”Novell is back,”” declared Messman to an audience of an estimated 6,000 Novell customers, partners and employees attending the weeklong conference. He was joined on stage by Linux originator Linus Torvalds, who made a surprise visit.

Open Enterprise Server — part of Novell’s Nterprise family of products — is a solution comprised of NetWare 7, the recently announced SuSE LINUX Enterprise Server 9, and networking services including Nterprise Linux Services, which shipped last December. The company plans to keep the NetWare brand name.

“”This migration path allows you to stay on NetWare as long as you like,”” said Messman. “”Linux now has the management services that allow you to deploy without having staff in your current environment. . . . (Customers) now have ability to choose between two great operating systems.””

Stephen Forrest, manager of network services for Novell customer Vancouver Community College (VCC), which is currently using NetWare 6 on half of its 50 servers across its three campuses, said his next move will be to Linux.

“”By the time I get here next year, I hope to have moved over to Linux,”” said Forrest, who said he chose not to upgrade to NetWare 6.5 when it came out last year because he was waiting for a Linux-based release.

Novell also talked about its plan to offer a migration path to Linux-based desktops this year. Vice-chairman Chris Stone said all Novell employees using Open Office will be running it on Linux by mid-summer of this year and half of its employees will be on a Linux desktop in the same time frame.

“”We’re combining the best of SuSE and Ximian on the desktop,”” said Stone.

Novell, which acquired Ximian six months ago, announced it would start shipping its Ximian desktop running on SuSE LINUX on Monday.

In other announcements, Novell outlined new open source offerings for systems management: YaST, a SuSE LINUX product short for Yet Another Setup Tool and file/storage software called iFolder on Linux. With YaST and iFolder now available to the open source community under the General Public Licence (GPL), Novell hopes to build partnerships with major vendors including Computer Associates International, Hewlett-Packard and IBM to deliver enterprise solutions.

Warren Shiau, IDC Canada analyst, said what Novell is offering is far more comprehensive than a Linux desktop. But Shiau doesn’t expect the Open Enterprise Server announcement will mean that customers will be rushing to switch over to Linux just yet.

“”I’m not entirely sure if people are anticipating a mass movement,”” he said. “”Novell now has an option that’s not proprietary. It opens up opportunities for movement in the future.””

Shiau expects the largest area of adoption in the Canadian market to be in financial services where what he calls a “”natural combo”” between IBM and Novell will give this set of customers a complete product.

“”The Canadian market tends to be more conservative but with a more mature solution and with Computer Associates, Hewlett-Packard and IBM backing Novell’s direction, it’s making a big difference,”” he said.

Novell also announced an agreement with IBM that will enable Big Blue to ship SuSE Linux enterprise server across its servers and that Novell will develop and support SuSE on IBM platforms.

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