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Novell giving away source code

The network software provider has determined the best way to attract computer programmers to its core NetWare operating system is to give away a few of its secrets.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah--Network software provider Novell has determined the best way to attract computer programmers to its core NetWare operating system is to give away a few of its secrets.

The move, announced at the company's annual user conference here, highlights Novell's strategy to attract software developers to its technology by any means necessary.

The company disclosed plans in a number of areas at its annual user conference here: from the release of core NetWare protocols, to test releases of its clustering software, to further refinements in its strategy to provide management tools for NetWare and Microsoft's Windows NT operating system. It also rolled out an expanded strategy for its caching software with third-party hardware companies like Dell Computer and Compaq Computer.

Novell has continually had trouble attracting developers to its software, a function of the often difficult task of building applications based on the company's NetWare Loadable Module, or NLM, scheme. But the company has come out of its shell in the aftermath of Eric Schmidt's entrance two years ago, promoting the Java programming language as a server-side tool, embracing the WebSphere application server from IBM and related Java-based development tools, and now releasing elements of its core NetWare technology.

"The company has always had this fear that people would reengineer NetWare. Who would want to do that?" said Chris Stone, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development. "Just give it to them. It just helps create more community."

Novell will not release its security-related protocols--keys to both NetWare and the company's directory service known as NDS.

Novell executives said they hope to spur more development by opening up its technology. "The benefits are very open source-like," said Glenn Ricart, chief technology officer for the company.

Novell claims to have tripled its number of developers in 18 months.

Novell will essentially componentize many elements of its operating system, allowing the firm to add new protocol support as needed. For example, NetWare will soon include support for HTTP, or hypertext transfer protocol, one of the essential protocols for Web servers. "Our fundamental development philosophy is different," said Brian Faustyn, director of NetWare product marketing.

The company has already rolled out plans for updates to NetWare and disclosed this week a revised strategy for its GroupWise messaging and collaboration system. In addition, it has an NDS upgrade in the works, due to ship for NetWare within 60 days and for Microsoft's Windows NT and Sun Microsystems' Solaris in the second half of this year.

Furthering its aim to be a larger player on the Net, Novell rolled out an Internet Caching System program that takes its already shipping technology and allows third parties to optimize Intel-based appliances using the software. Dell announced plans to create a server appliance based on the company's technology. Compaq followed suit.

Novell is also showing off the first internally developed components in its bid for a portion of the potentially lucrative market for clustering software. The technology, known internally as Orion, is being offered to attendees in test form and allows an information technology (IT) administrator to cluster up to 12 NetWare 5.0-based machines together with a shared storage system. The Novell Clustering Service is scheduled to ship in the second half of this year, according to the company.

Also on tap is an update to the company's Zen Works desktop management suite for NetWare and Windows NT machines. Version 2.0 of the software, due in the first half of this year, will be tweaked to make it easier for administrators to automatically distribute software, whether a machine is on or off. The update is part of an overall management software strategy, dubbed K2, that will add a slew of functions to Novell's portfolio.

K2 is a set of technologies that will include Zen Works 2.0 as well as a ManageWise update that will be completely Java-based and will extend the company's server management functions. Upcoming additions will also incorporate policy-based management as well as quality-of-service (QoS) needs. New Zen-style applications will address single sign-on management using NDS as well as management of storage systems.