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Novell offers free networking software

The company unveils new networking software for smaller businesses that it will make available for free. The package includes Web access, collaborative tools and security management.

Novell is releasing new networking software aimed at small businesses and will make it available for free, the company said on Thursday.

Provo, Utah-based Novell said the out-of-the-box software, called the Novell Small Business Suite Starter Pack, includes Web access, collaborative tools, e-mail, and security and management capabilities.

The software will be available as a free bundled addition with applications from third-party developers, who are also receiving the product gratis. Most smaller businesses turn to third-party programs rather than the larger ones offered by IBM, Oracle and other major companies. Novell is presumably hoping to use such programs as a way to get its foot in the door at companies that don't already use its products.

The company is not alone in courting smaller outfits. With information technology budgets remaining restricted at most corporations, many large technology companies are setting their sights on small and medium-size businesses. The idea is to establish an early relationship with fledgling companies whose technology needs are likely to increase as they expand.

IBM, for example, is launching on Thursday several programs intended to gain support among software developers who could bring Big Blue's diverse products to the attention of small and medium-size businesses.

On the networking front, Nortel released in February new products aimed at bolstering the communications networks of small and medium-size businesses.

PC makers such as MicronPC, Dell Computer and Gateway, have in recent years introduced servers aimed at the growing sector.

Novell CEO Jack Messman said in a statement that the plan was a great way "for Novell to gain additional share of this dynamic area of the market."

Novell said it would count on its local channel partners to drive the adoption of its free networking product.