March 22, 2005

Novell's BrainShare 2005: Day 2

Author: Joe Barr

CEO Jack Messman kicked off Day 2 at BrainShare 2005 with a confident keynote that recounted promises made last year, Novell's execution of those, and a flurry of new product announcements. If Novell is acting in desperation, as some have suggested of their move to Linux, it doesn't show itself in their public face. NewsForge also spent some time on the exhibition floor and a lot of time in the press room, where Novell was conducting rapid-fire one-on-one briefings for the media.

The announcements included a partnership announcement with JBOSS, Identity Management, the Open Source application ecosystem, a program to validate stacks on Linux, enhancements and support promises for GroupWise, a small business server, and cross-platform management. All them revolve around Linux. All these announcements --and a replay of the keynote -- are available here on the Novell web site.

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The words that really caught my ear during the keynote -- before the product demos began -- was when Messman said that Novell was migrating all 6,000 of its desktops from Windows to Linux. Make no mistake about it, Novell is dead serious about Linux.

The Exhibit Floor

BrainShare is a much more of a working convention than Linux World. The vendors are there, of course, but the crowd comes and goes between training sessions, briefings, certification tests, and maybe a game of pool.

As I walked the floor this morning, I saw many names from firms who regularly make appearances at Linux shows: HP, IBM, AMD, Intel, Dell, CA, Win4Lin, and others. But I also saw a lot of names that I wasn't familiar with at all, mostly vendors involved primarily in the Netware space that are not yet well known to the Linux world. Note the "not yet." Every one of them seems to have a Linux tale to tell, and it's clear that Novell's move into the world of Linux and free/open source software is not being made alone. Firms like Xiotech, Syncsort, Blue Lance, Net Vision, CompuThink, moon walk, St.neware, Nexic, Protocom, and many others are joining Novell in the Linux world.

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The hot booth this morning was Xiotech's. The draw was a true-geek "booth babe" named Sprocket.

Sprocket is a robot about 5 feet tall, that can scoot around the floor and visit with the visitors. I tried to get details about Sprocket but a human Xiotech booth-person refused to provide them, saying they had been sworn to secrecy. I looked around for the man behind the curtain, but wasn't able to locate him. The crowd loved Sprocket, who would follow after attendees until they turned around to talk to him, then engage them in a lively, witty, conversation. Nothing to do with Linux, or Novell, but very cool nonetheless.

The Briefings

During the afternoon, I was briefed by various Novell execs on the new Small Business Server, the newly announced Identity Management Foundation, and Novell's plans for the Linux desktop. Note that except for SUSE Professional 9.3, none of these are available directly to the public. But they will be available from Novell's channel partners.

The Identity Management Foundation will be available as a pair of SDKs. All Novell products will make use of the functionality to enable complete Identity Management. The Small Business Server will retail for $495 and include 5 client licenses and the right to install up to 3 servers. The clients can be either Novell's Linux Desktop or Windows, and the server is fully functional with both. As far as SUSE Professional 9.3 is concerned, it's almost soup. Release is scheduled for next month.

One cool thing I can tell you about 9.3 -- other than the thousands of applications it includes -- is that it will include a feature that Microsoft has been promising since 1994 but has not yet been able to deliver. It's called Beagle, and it can search your personal computing space right-now real-time and find whatever it is you're looking for, "just like that." We're not far from the day when the tables will have been turned. Linux won't be chasing Windows to keep pace with features, Windows will be chasing Linux.

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