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Commentary: Novell gives Linux enterprise muscle

Novell's acquisition of SuSE Linux is a good deal for firms and governments that are looking for an open-source alternative to Unix and Windows.

Commentary: Novell gives Linux enterprise muscle
By Forrester Research
Special to CNET News.com
November 10, 2003, 7:30AM PT

By Ted Schadler, principal analyst, Forrester Research

Novell will move deeper into enterprise open-source software via its $210 million acquisition of the No. 2 Linux distributor, SuSE Linux.

This is a good deal for firms and governments that are looking for an open-source alternative to Unix and Windows.

Forrester spoke with Novell's chief marketing officer, Debra Bergevine; chief technology officer Alan Nugent; the general manager for Novell resource management, David Patrick; and IBM's director of worldwide Linux solutions, Scott


Related story

Computing industry stalwarts such as
Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and even Microsoft
welcome Novell's planned acquisition
of SuSE Linux, saying the move
will mean a financially stronger business
partner for their own wares.

Handy, about Novell's $210 million acquisition of German-based Linux distributor SuSE and IBM's $50 million investment in preferred Novell stock. Our conclusions:

• Novell makes SuSE a strong Red Hat competitor. Support leads the list of concerns that information technology executives have around Linux and open-source software. Novell, with its global reach, technology partnerships and sheer size, will bring enterprise-level comfort and support to SuSE deployments--particularly for server workloads. Novell also now has a credible strategy for retaining its installed base by moving it from NetWare to Linux--rather than losing it to Microsoft.

• IBM protects its Linux investments with a second Linux distribution. IBM and its customers need robust Linux competition to ensure Linux's future. IBM has long courted both Red Hat and SuSE--and relied on SuSE for Linux ports to zSeries. IBM's $50 million investment in Novell--and commitment to resell Novell's identity management and desktop management products--gives Novell a strong, trusted partner. Together, Novell and SuSE will displace the flailing UnitedLinux consortium as the No. 2 Linux distribution.

• Governments and firms gain a credible supplier of open-source desktops. Microsoft is still the best choice for corporate desktops--and its investments in Windows and Office System demonstrate its commitment to that market. But in some specialized situations--technical workstations, call center or point-of-sale applications, and policy-driven governments--Novell now provides the strongest portfolio of open-source desktop tools and management infrastructure.


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What should firms and vendors do? When the high-tech history of this decade is written, this acquisition will mark a turning point in Linux adoption. With Novell joining Red Hat as an enterprise-capable Linux provider, firms now have two stable companies to bet on for Linux distributions: open- source software stacks and enterprise support. So what should firms do?

• Considering having SuSE in the data center? Your case just got stronger. Firms that are looking at SuSE's server distribution should breathe a sigh of relief that Novell is now at the helm. The combination of Novell's global reach and IBM support with SuSE's engineering-led distribution makes this decision even easier--particularly for zSeries and AMD shops.

• Using Red Hat? Ask for global field support. By this time next year, Novell will have feet on the street to support Linux in the field--around the world. Firms that use Red Hat Linux should ask for the same level of hands-on support.

• Thinking about open-source desktops? Choose Novell over Sun Microsystems. Sun's new Java desktop offers many of the same capabilities as does Novell's combination of SuSE Linux and the Ximian desktop. But Novell wins out when it comes to hardware relationships, global value-added reseller channels and mixed software management tools.

• Running NetWare? Linux is ready to take over. During the next two years, Novell's gigantic and loyal NetWare installed base should move file and print workloads and most network-based applications to Windows or Linux. With this acquisition, Novell can now supply a complete software offering that will appeal to the Microsoft-averse.

• Porting to Linux? Support both Red Hat and Novell/SuSE. Independent software vendors like Vignette, Siebel Systems and PeopleSoft have opened their eyes to the low-cost Linux-on-Intel platform. This acquisition clarifies the landscape for the Americas and Europe: Only two distributions matter now: Red Hat and Novell/SuSE.

© 2003, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.