Novell customers at breakfast, followed by formal meetings with other customers and channel partners in the press room. Last but not least, I was able to meet one-on-one with two Novell executives: CIO Debra Anderson and VP Jeff Hawkins.
Conference attendees reflect Novell's global customer base. I had breakfast with attendees from Singapore, Canada, and Georgia. One of two Novell employees also at the table was based in London. Naturally, I had to impose upon my fellow breakfasters for their views on Novell's move to Linux.
I asked Toh Wei Sheong, Senior Services Manager for Ingram Micro Asia, how the change to Linux will affect their business. He smiled and replied, "That's what I came here to find out." Seokmann Ju, a staff engineer with LSI Logic in Norcross, Georgia, said he thought the move was a great one.
No sooner did I arrive at the press room than I learned there were two additional Novell announcements today. One had to do with the launching of an Open Source Technology Center in Provo, Utah, which will act as an incubator for new open source businesses by providing facilities, business services, and access to capital. The second had to do with the Oregon Department of Transportation's move to SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server running on IBM hardware. These announcements and all the others released during Brainshare can be found here on the Novell web site.
A number of Novell partners and customers held forth in the press room. My first visit was with Michael Zepernick, president of Computer Integrated Services Company (CIS) of New York. They do a lot of business supporting Novell shops and have no problem at all supporting them whether they want to run the Netware OS or the new Open Enterprise Server (OES). When asked what his customers thought of the move to Linux, he said they support a lot of Microsoft shops, and even they are interested in learning about the Linux offerings.
Next came Jim Shipley and Dave Zeck -- Group Managers of Network Services and Applications Administrative Services respectively -- from W. W. Grainger, a $5 billion dollar a year supplier of facilities maintenance products. They are fully behind the move to Linux and in fact are already developing an ERP application to run on OES. Porting of existing Visual Basic code is delaying migration of some of their other applications to OES. I asked if they had any plans for a desktop migration to Linux. They do not at this time, but are sure it will come eventually.
I also spoke with Senior Systems Administrator Steve Adams from the Oregon Department of Transportation. He told me how they had used open source development tools to rewrite a portion of the state's driver's license management system. The application now runs on an IBM z800 mainframe under SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server. He also said the migration of two other DOT systems to Linux is expected to be completed by year-end.
My last customer briefing came from Roger Fenner, Infrastructure Services Manager at Comair, a subsidiary of Delta Airlines. He told me they had begun to look at Linux even before Novell decided to transform itself into a Linux company. The reason he gave was their concern over the ability of Netware to accommodate new hardware, so they were delighted with Novell's decision. He noted that Novell has made "an amazing amount of progress" with Linux over the past year.
Fenner was proud of the fact that when Blaster was corrupting email servers around the globe, Comair's GroupWise server proved to be immune. As a test, he installed GroupWise on an old 486 machine running SUSE LINUX and it came up and ran without a hitch.
I asked if the migration to Linux was a concern for him or his staff and he said it was not at all. They have plenty of experience in both Netware OS and in Unix, and view Linux as just another flavor of Unix. He sees the interoperability that Linux brings to the table as a big plus.
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By the time I finished my meetings with the Novell CIO and CTO, the day was almost gone and it was time to head back to the hotel and start pounding the keyboard. But I did stop in the rec area long enough to snap a picture of the action on the pool tables. I'll cover the meetings with the Novell execs in a later dispatch. The next big item on my agenda is a meeting with Miguel de Icaza, one of the founders of Ximian, which was purchased by Novell last year.