Novell's NetWare 7, due out in approximately two years' time, will be a set of services that sits on top of both the NetWare and Linux kernels.
In a press conference following his keynote speech at Novell's annual BrainShare user and partner conference in Salt Lake City, Novell chairman and chief executive officer Jack Messman said Novell customers paying maintenance fees will have the option over time to migrate from the NetWare kernel to the Linux kernel if they choose.
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"It's a good migration path for NetWare users who were worried about where we were going with NetWare," Messman said.
NetWare 6.5, the public beta of which was released yesterday, is scheduled for availability this summer. Messman said NetWare 7 availability would follow Novell's standard time line of approximately 18 months between releases.
Novell vice chairman Chris Stone said it was too early to elaborate on plans for the packaging of the Linux kernel, adding that Novell had no plans to release a "unique flavour" of Linux, and that the utilities and services that would be part of Novell's Linux offering are still being worked out.
In any case, whether a customer opts for the NetWare kernel or the Linux kernel is "irrelevant", Stone said. "The value is in the services."
Messman stressed that Novell will continue to support and enhance NetWare. "It's all about choice," he said. He expressed the view that for NetWare users, having the choice to migrate to Linux will be more important than exercising it. "I think once they get that option, they'll choose not to do it," he said. "They just need to know they can."
NetWare 6.5 will include open-source technologies such as Apache, MySQL, Perl, PHP, and Tomcat. In addition, with the inclusion of the Novell exteNd Application Server acquired last year from SilverStream Software Inc., organisations can now run any J2EE applications on NetWare.
The company also announced a forthcoming GroupWise client for Linux and Apple Macintosh desktops, expanding the reach of its messaging platform. Linux support in GroupWise will ship in two phases: The first part will be a Java client for Linux followed by back-end Linux support. Although no shipping date was available, Novell demonstrated the GroupWise client for Linux and showed a prototype of a GroupWise server back-end running on Linux.
Other announcements at the show included a website for the open-source and developer communities, dubbed Novell Forge. The site is designed to let developers download, modify, exchange, and update open-source code released by Novell. As part of the Forge initiative, Novell is releasing the source code for its Nsure UDDI Server.
Novell also highlighted an early access release of the Liberty identity provider for Novell eDirectory. Using the Liberty Alliance Version 1.1 specifications, the Liberty identity provider offers single sign-on capabilities for internal, external, and partner websites.
In June, Novell will ship a SAML extension for iChain, designed to allow businesses to share authentication and user information securely with partners and suppliers across the web.