January 21, 2004

Novell CEO keynote at LWCE promises open source contributions

Author: Lee Schlesinger

LinuxWorld Conference and Expo began this morning at the Javits Center in New York City with a keynote address by Jack Messman, chairman of the board and CEO of Novell. Novell, Messman noted, is a billion-dollar company that's wagering its future on open source, with the acquisitions in the past year of Ximian and SuSE.Messman declared, "We will not seek to change the open source model, we will embrace it." He said Novell is placing a big bet on open source as the dominant development model, as well as the business model, going forward.

"We will contribute more to open source than we take away," Messman promised. "We will not just port our services to open source and say, we're done."

Messman predicted 2004 will be the year Linux becomes a strategic enterprise platform. Because of its cross-platform nature, Messman predicted Linux will become the platform for virtualization, where applications can run across any hardware, from embedded devices to the mainframe.

Messman pointed out that open source changes the control relationships in business. Companies lose control and customers gain new control by seeing the code. That brings up new questions for both customers and vendors. Customers ask: What if the software breaks? Who do I call? Is it secure? What are my costs vs. risks, and what are my liabilities? Messman said support is the number one issue on the minds of CIOs. Customers have been buying proprietary software for years, for which vendors have been providing indemnification. Open source doesn't usually work that way.

Meanwhile, vendors ask: How do I make money for something I don't own? Will the development model work in my environment? Do I have the right skills in my organization?

Messman said a successful business model will provide funding for expansion of open source. By participating in collective innovation, companies can reduce complexity for the customer. A company can put 200 developers to work on an open source project while gaining the skills of thousands of others. Because enterprise customers don't like frequent changes, vendors can create order around frequently changing open source applications.

Open and closed source can and must coexist, Messman said. The more applications that are built for Linux, the more demand there is for Linux, regardless of whether the applications are open or proprietary.

Messman noted how Novell's recent acquisitions had already affected the company. He said Novell had a bad case of "not invented here" syndrome, and the mindset of Ximian has had an exciting effect on Novell's developers. They've illustrated that it's not the technology so much as the process that matters. But Messman said the change would not be an overnight process for Novell, or any company that takes this path.

For 2004, Messman predicts more incursion of Linux in data centers, running mission-critical applications. He believe Linux on the desktop will begin to gain traction, and the number of enterprise applications will explode.

For its part, Novell will offer identity management, single sign-on, centralized management, and service replication this year. It is porting its collaboration, document management, and resource management apps to Linux, and creating a Certified Linux Engineer certification program.

Click Here!