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Novell CEO: We'll make 'immature' Linux robust

Novell will take the "immature" Linux operating system and turn it into a" robust, reliable and scaleable" enterprise-class operating system.

That was the message of the company's chairman and chief executive officer Jack Messman at the Brainshare user and partner conference in Salt Lake City.

Messman told the attendees that Linux would serve as the migration path for the company's flagship NetWare network operating system. Afterwards, in an exclusive interview, he explained the move.

With Novell planning for NetWare 7 to be a set of services running on both the NetWare kernel and the Linux kernel, Messman first tried to explain the user benefit of sticking with NetWare rather than migrating to Linux now.

"In the short term, the advantage to CIOs is with NetWare, they have a more mature and robust operating system. Over time, that gap will diminish," said Messman.

"Linux is an immature operating system," he continued. "It hasn't had somebody like Novell worrying about making it robust, reliable and scalable. We think we can bring that to the Linux kernel."

Messman dismissed suggestions that Novell had seen Linux as a threat and decided to embrace it rather than fight it. 

"We never saw it as a threat," the Novell chief insisted. In the last year, we saw it as an opportunity to answer the question as to what the migration path is for NetWare. Because people said, 'It's a dead-end path, so maybe I ought to switch.'

"With Linux on Intel boxes coming out that significantly reduce your costs, that became a viable alternative, and we started seriously looking at it. And the customers told us that's what they were thinking about."

Kernels - Windows, Unix, Linux and NetWare - may have become commoditised, said Messman, but services were the key to the future. "Linux doesn't have the services and support that we can bring to the table," he said. 

Messman also argued that the Linux strategy could turn around NetWare's declining market share. "This is going to help us get new NetWare business because I think the customers were worried about what their migration was. Now they know they're not going to get stuck.

"They have the right to switch to Linux any time they want. Therefore, I think they'll buy more NetWare, because it's a more robust, mature operating system with capabilities that Linux doesn't have."

Messman said the non-Novell IT community's biggest misconception about the company was that it was " legacy and disappearing", which he blamed on the company's poor marketing.

He added, "We were an engineering-focused company. We never listened to the customer. We developed these great, gee-whiz products and threw them over the wall to marketing and said, 'Go sell it, guys; we're done with it.' We thought that if you created a great product, the world would beat a path to your door."

Messman also tried to distance himself from some of his predecessors who, he claimed, made promises they could not deliver.

""I don't practise that way. I want people to come to expect that when we say something, we're going to deliver on it. That's the new Novell: We're going to deliver on what we say we're going to deliver."

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