Novell makes bid for Linux desktop through Ximian deal

Novell added a desktop Linux application bundle to its management software portfolio with the acquisition early this week of Ximian.

The Provo, Utah-based firm

said the deal would see it play a significant role both in an industry-wide project to create a full-featured Linux desktop, GENOME, and Mono, an initiative to run Microsoft’s .Net applications on platforms like Linux. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The four-year-old Ximian will become a business unit within Novell, the companies said via teleconference at the LinuxWorld Expo in San Francisco. Novell executives said they would integrate Ximian’s Red Carpet software, which updates applications across Linux distributions, into the ZENWorks line of directory services tools.

David Patrick, Ximian’s president and CEO, said the company needed the support of a company with Novell’s history in order to gain further access into government and private sector customers.

“”They really need someone who can provide a complete solution,”” he said. “”We weren’t doing that. We were providing point solutions.””

Novell chief executive Jack Messman said Novell would consider opening up software code from its own products to the Linux community, but not right away.

“”Opening source code is one thing, opening usable source code is another,”” he said. “”It’s something you have to do a pretty good analysis of before you throw it out there.””

At its annual BrainShare user conference earlier this year, Novell said it was working on a migration path that will make its services available on the Linux kernel, though that isn’t expected until NetWare 7.0.

Ximian’s work with the Mono project means users could see Microsoft .Net services offered on NetWare as well as Linux, Messman said.

“”That has come up internally,”” he said. “”We’re not ruling that out. It’s entirely possible.””

Nat Friedman, one of Ximian’s co-founders and now vice-president of research and development in the Novell Ximian Services business unit, said Ximian was attracted by the number of Novell engineers who could provide training on open source technologies.

“”This is something that’s needed now,”” he said, “”A large world-class organization that can really deploy and drive adoption inside of enterprises.””

Patrick predicted Linux to make a slow transition to the desktop on Intel-based workstations and clients running only one or two applications. This mirrors Linux’s growth from the edge of the network in file and print servers into the heart of the data centre, he said.

“”(Novell) understood this stuff before we came in the door,”” he said. “”The client side is the next big thing in Linux. It’s where you’re going to see the most activity and the most non-incremental activity.””

Novell also said Tuesday its Directory would ship with additional Linux support, while a version of its GroupWise would run entirely on Linux. The company also formed a cooperative support agreement with Linux distributor SuSE.

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