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Novell Rolls Out SUSE Linux Slate, Strategy, Against Skepticism By Some

Seeking Stability in a Changing Environment

March 19, 2007

At its annual BrainShare users conference today, Novell rolled out a slate of new SUSE Linux products and talked up a new, two-fold corporate strategy devised in the wake of its controversial pact with Microsoft--but not without skepticism, and even vehement opposition, among some who traveled to Salt Lake City this week.

On the one hand, Novell plans to deliver "enterprise-wide Linux, [from the] desktop to the data center," according to Ron Hovsepian, the company's president and CEO.

But at the same time, Novell will also provide "enterprise-wide management of heterogeneous and mixed-source environments," Hovsepian said, during the general session at BrainShare.

Novell's far reaching and multifaceted deal with Microsoft, announced last fall, "finally has companies collaborating on mixed source environments," contended Jeff Jaffe, Novell's senior VP and CTO, at a press conference afterward.

Also at the press conference, Hovsepian suggested that the 1.3 million downloads of SUSE Linux that have happened over the past three months were largely prompted by customer enthusiasm over recent work between Novell and Microsoft on "interoperability" between SUSE Linux and Windows.

Meanwhile, however, a number of reporters at the press conference were getting ready to leave from there for a "Rain on Novell's Parade" press event, held across the street by open source advocate Bruce Perens to protest the workarounds to the GPL v2 license embodied in the Novell-Microsoft agreement.

During the BrainShare press conference, also accessible via a phone bridge, Jaffe pointed to specific examples of newly announced SUSE products that fall into the respective categories of "desktop to data center" Linux and "management of heterogeneous and mixed environments."

A new SUSE Linux thin client, for example, is designed to meet demands of customers for a highly customizable thin client desktop, he said.

"But how do you customize different ones for different implementations?" he asked. Some users want "less [data] on the stomach," whereas others want "less on the biceps."

As part of the basis for managing multivendor platforms, Novell announced that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) will get support for Xen virtualization in Service Pack (SP) 1 in May.

But despite Novell's barrage of literally nine different press releases today, reporters asked fewer questions about the new products than other subjects.

One reporter wanted to know, "When will Microsoft be your owner?" Hovsepian replied that this question would be better asked of Microsoft.

"But [I think] the thought of them buying us [is] deep in the conspiracy theory bucket, personally," he said.

"Customers want to buy certain things that work together," according to the Novell CEO. "[If they're] going to want [software running on] J2EE [and] .NET, then we have to work together."

Another journalist asked for Hovsepian's response to efforts by some developers to exclude from the forthcoming GNU GPL 3 license the types of IP agreements reached by Novell and Microsoft in their deal.

"I feel glad that we met the compliance mechanism for [GPL] 2," he said. But Hovsepian added that Novell has a "sensitivity to how the community feels," because the company wants to "grow Linux in the enterprise."

Also according to the CEO, it's still too early to tell yet what will transpire with GPL 3.

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