Novell Inc. has set its sights on the data centre as the next frontier for the Linux platform in the enterprise.

The Provo, Utah-based company Tuesday announced a new strategy to expand its data centre solutions to support mission-critical

applications such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management. Novell currently offers workstation, workgroup and high performance computing offerings as part of its enterprise computing portfolio.

“Data centres are the beating heart of the enterprise,” Jack Messman, Novell chairman and CEO said in an address to media Tuesday following his keynote speech at this year’s LinuxWorld Conference & Expo in Boston. “The next challenge is to truly harden Linux for mission critical data centre tasks and to deliver tools for high performance computing.”

The strategy will focus on several key areas including application infrastructure, storage software, virtualization, systems management and security. Benefits to users include improved data centre manageability, better utilization of data centre resources and increased application scalability and performance.

As part of its data centre initiative, Novell also announced it will resell and support PolyServe Matrix Server clustering software worldwide.

“This is one of the more important partnerships concerning the data centre that you’ll be seeing from us,” said Messman. Novell also recently announced certifications on Suse Linux Enterprise server by SGI and Unisys.

Messman said Linux is becoming more mainstream for many corporate tasks.

“We’ve made some great progress in Linux and open source in last year,” said Messman. “The conversation were having with CIOs this year has changed from, ‘Is it safe?’ and ‘Who will support me?’ to ‘How can I use it to improve my business?’”

Historically, Linux has been at edge of network applications like Web servers, app servers and firewalls. Last November, Linux announced a desktop operating system called Novell Linux Desktop 9.

Novell also announced the upcoming availability of Novell Open Enterprise Server (OES), a suite of services that combines NetWare and Suse Linux platforms to deliver a file, print management and application and collaboration capabilities in an open environment.

“OES is a great option for existing NetWare customers who can continue to leverage NetWare strengths while getting the benefits of Linux,” said Messman.

Stephen Forrest, manager, network services, Vancouver Community College (VCC), says the post-secondary institution will be running Suse Enterprise Linux Server or OES by this time next year.

“They’ve got to get their customer base from A to B,” said Forrest. “The Microsoft way is, ‘We’re going to ignore the rest of the world and we’ll stay completely proprietary.’

“It’s a risk upon Novell’s part being in the open source world. They know that and they’ve deliberately taken it that way. The value is making it easy to use in a corporate world.”

While VCC is still running NetWare 6.5 on some of its servers, it recently started using OES code inside Suse Linux Enterprise Server 9 on 33 of its virtual servers across its three campuses.

However, Carl Langford, manager of technical support at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. said he will start looking at OES as a platform for its production servers but won’t be deploying it until a final version of the software is released. A beta version was released on Novell’s Web site last December and has had more than 7,000 downloads, according to the company.

“It’s definitely in our future but until they actually do the full formal announcement of the package out there I don’t think we’ll be experimenting with it in the production environment,” said Langford.

“We have fiddled with it on little test servers but at this point we’re not ready to roll it out as main offering.”

Laurier is currently running NetWare on its eight servers and is experimenting with Suse Linux in anticipation of the OES package coming out.

Langford is confident in the Linux operating system but is unsure at this point how it will integrate with Laurier’s existing infrastructure.

“There are certain things we would have to do now that maybe aren’t the smoothest,” he said. “With some of the features that they have indicated will be in the OES version, the Linux server integrates much more nicely. It’s just how well it’s going to integrate that we’re waiting for.”

For example, Langford said DNS file systems will work nicely either from Linux or from NetWare.

In other news, Novell announced it has donated 200,000-plus lines of source code taken from its NetMail product towards a new open source collaboration project called Hula in an effort to expand alternatives to Internet e-mail and scheduling.

“Novell is also making steps to further cement its role as a leader in Linux,” said Messman. “We continue to show we give back to the community as much as we take away. We’re focused on bringing new Linux innovations to market.”

The conference wraps up Thursday.


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