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Novell's acquisition of SuSE set to improve support and services for open source users

Antony Adshead

Novell's takeover of SuSE could drive Linux adoption and be good for users

Novell's buyout of SuSE Linux has been welcomed by users of Novell and open source software, who said it would bolster the open source movement and help Novell re-emerge as a force in enterprise infrastructure.

Richard Heggs, chief production support analyst at Nottingham City Council, which has rolled out a SuSE Linux-based e-mail system, said, "In any buy-out there is always going to be change, but I am cautiously optimistic that Novell will continue to develop the SuSE brand. As an open source developer, I would be concerned that Novell would try to make Linux proprietary, but I do not think it will."

Others hailed the move as positive because the buyout would enable the firm to offer a full range of components from the server to the desktop.

Jim Jarvie, IT manager at Central Scotland Police, said, "It is a shrewd move on Novell's part and gives them a new lease of life by being able to put together a good enterprise stack from the back-end to the front. It should see them come back to prominence."

Central Scotland Police is trialing SuSE on the desktop for possible roll-out to the entire force. "We have a good relationship with SuSE and I do not see why that should change," said Jarvie.

However, Graham Taylor, director at Open Forum Europe, which represents open source users and suppliers, said, "SuSE users may be concerned that a large US company will muscle in on open source."

SuSE executives promised users that the combined company would bring more resources to bear on development of the Linux desktop environment.

Juergen Geck, chief technology officer at SuSE, said, "Our aim is to have more to offer UK users in terms of support and services."

Linux consultant Eddie Bleasdale of Netproject welcomed the acquisition, particularly as it followed Novell's August purchase of Linux desktop and server software developer Ximian.

"It shows there is money in open source," said Bleasdale. "A small, independent open source company will get the weight of Novell behind it. The result will be a Linux desktop environment linked with Ximian and the development resources of Novell."

l Novell's acquisition of SuSE added a new twist to the legal battle between the SCO group and Linux suppliers and users.

SCO said some versions of Linux contained its proprietary Unix code and in March it launched a £620m lawsuit against IBM, accusing it of contributing the code to the Linux system. SCO also has an ongoing legal dispute with Novell over intellectual property rights to Unix code.

In September Hewlett-Packard said it would indemnify its Linux customers against legal action from SCO. Ovum analyst Gary Barnett said he was looking to Novell to follow suit. "All we need now is for Novell to indemnify users against SCO," he said.

SCO was unavailable for comment.


How Novell measures up to the market

Novell's share of the server operating systems market has declined but it still has a large installed base. "There are still millions of servers running Netware in the majority of Global 2000 companies" said Dan Kusnetzky, vice-president for research at analyst firm IDC.

Global server operating systems: new shipments

Microsoft 55%

Linux 23%

Unix 11%

Netware 9.9%

Source: IDC


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