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Novell sees a 'both-source' future

CEO asserts the future of software development will not be found in the open-source or proprietary models.

3 min read
BARCELONA, Spain--Novell asserts that the future of software development will not be found in the open-source or proprietary models, but in one that combines the best of both worlds--or "both source" as the company calls it.

Novell CEO Jack Messman, speaking Monday to customers and partners at the company's annual BrainShare Europe conference here, detailed the company's efforts to weave a difficult path between the conflicting agendas of the open-source and proprietary worlds.

Messman asserts that the opposing software development camps must learn to coexist in a symbiotic relationship. "The future is going to be 'both source'--not open and not proprietary. The industry needs the profits from proprietary software to help fund open-source developments," he said.

The spread of open source beyond the operating system to the application layer--open-source databases, for example--will be funded by the need for sophisticated proprietary applications to work on top of that layer, he said.

Shortly after Messman finished justifying Novell's proprietary heritage, though, Novell European President Richard Seibt said that businesses should move away from a closed approach to their internal software development and adopt open-source methods in order to cut costs and improve efficiency.

Seibt, formerly chief executive of SuSE Linux, said that the open-source development model should no longer be the sole domain of traditional open-source community members but should be embraced by mainstream businesses.

"There needs to be a change in culture when it comes to the mindset of developers. We think that open source is something that needs to take hold and something that enterprises should engage with. In an open-source development model, you not only reduce your risk, you reduce your cost," Seibt said.

Seibt acknowledged that there could be "regulatory implications" for companies looking to open-source applications they have developed in-house on top of a proprietary application, but he added that Novell is working with the rest of the industry to overcome this kind of legal hurdle.

Novell has traditionally been viewed as a proprietary software company in a similar mold as rival Microsoft. But following the acquisitions of open-source tools company Ximian and SuSE Linux over the last 12 months, the company has been working hard to reconcile an open-source philosophy with its proprietary past.

"We are a company that is in transition, and we are about halfway through that transition," said Messman.

Novell's balancing act is exemplified by its efforts to align its NetWare network operating system software with its SuSE Linux server products.

The company has been keen to reassure legacy NetWare customers that it is not abandoning the platform in its enthusiasm for everything open source--despite the dwindling demand for new NetWare licenses. Microsoft's dominance of the network operating market has forced NetWare into a niche from which most experts predict it will never escape.

Novell is hoping to keep NetWare alive with the introduction of Novell Open Enterprise Server, which includes the legacy networking platform and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9. The company hasn't provided a firm shipping date for Open Enterprise Server but announced on Monday that the product will move from closed beta testing to open beta testing in early November.

Novell said it had record attendance at BrainShare Europe this year with 2,300 international attendees at the show, which started Sunday and runs through Thursday.

Andrew Donoghue of ZDNet UK reported from Barcelona.