March 11, 2005

Novell CEBIT announcements are loud and clear

Author: Joe Barr

Commentary: Novell made two major Linux-related announcements at CEBIT this
week. They announced SUSE Professional 9.3, due to be released in April, and ZENworks 7 for
Linux. Unlike many press releases in this industry, announcing a new customer contract or otherwise allowing marketing folk to message the masses (forgive me, Baud, for the babble-speak), these two actually have some weight to them. Novell's director of marketing for SUSE LINUX, Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, and ZENworks product management and marketing vice president Alan Murray combined to brief NewsForge on the news yesterday afternoon, following the SUSE Professional 9.3 announcement at CEBIT, but ahead of today's unveiling at CEBIT of the latest version of ZENworks.

SUSE Professional 9.3

The new SUSE release clarifies Novell's positioning in the Linux distribution market. No, Joe, they are not backing out of the home market in favor of corporate desktops, as you felt they were with the release of Novell Desktop Linux last year. That offering is definitely tailored for the enterprise. SUSE Professional 9.3 is tailored just as much, but for home use.

Mancusi-Ungaro described the release as "the next generation of open source packages put together in a convenient Linux-operating
system distribution that's really designed to give customers everything they need to get started with Linux."

With a six-month release cycle, the SUSE-branded distribution will definitely appeal to the Linux community of hackers, hobbyists, professional IT workers, and migrating Windows users. In
that regard it will a little bit like the non-commercial Linux offerings: bleeding-edge, alright, with all the bright and shiny new baubles that seem to mesmerize the too-geek-to-speak crowd.

Of course, it will be SUSE Professional, for profit: not a community-based project. Priced in the $75.00 range, it comes with 90 days of support. Additional support can be purchased in the form of 20 minute phone calls on an as needed basis. But it's clear that Novell is not planning to build major revenue streams on support
for this distribution.

So what bright and shiny baubles will it include? It will ride on the 2.6.11 Linux kernel and include both the latest KDE and the latest GNOME desktops. Mancusi-Ungaro said that it will also have, among the 3,000 open source applications it includes, a pre-release
of OpenOffice.Org 2.0.

The bottom line here is that Novell is covering both segments of the desktop world: the enterprise and the home. Novell Linux for the enterprise and SUSE Linux for the masses. Personally, I'm glad
to see it. I had thought that the glass ceiling the Microsoft monopoly imposes on the desktop world had cost us the loss of a very fine distribution for Linux-at-home. I'm glad I was wrong.

ZENworks Linux Management 7

ZENworks has supported Linux in previous releases, but not to the degree that it does in ZENworks Linux Management 7. This release will add imaging, configuration lockdown, remote
management, inventory, and software management for Linux.

Murray said the new ZENware release would "allow Windows administrators -- from a single, centralized console -- to be able to manage Windows boxes, Netware boxes, or Linux boxes."

Did I mention that although ZENworks 7 is designed for and integrated with Novell's enterprise offerings, you will also use be
able to use it to administer Red Hat Enterprise Linux? It's true. Raleigh, we have some real competition for you in and around the glass room, and it's scheduled for release in the second quarter of this year.

It seems to me that Novell has an answer for some of the brain-dead idiots doing Sysadmin work these days. You know the type. They only speak Windows, and lack the ability to think their
way out of paper bag. This leads them to fear Linux instead of embracing it. They are the reason some bosses fear that a Linux migration would be too costly in terms of personnel training or replacement. The ZENworks answer is: "Look, grasshopper: with ZENworks 7, even you can be a Linux admin."

I think Novell has demonstrated in these two announcements at CEBIT some of the vision they had for Linux when they first thought about purchasing a distribution. Their years of experience going
head-to-head with all comers in the enterprise market will boost acceptance of Novell Linux, and all they need to do to succeed in the Linux community is to keep the SUSE-branded distribution alive up to snuff. Based on their execution so far, I think they have a very good shot at displacing Red Hat as the leading force in
commercial Linux.


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