September 10, 2004

Novell's Linux Day road show

Author: Mayank Sharma

After storming into the Linux software market with its acquisition of Ximian and SUSE Linux, Novell decided it's finally time to show off. The Novell Linux Day roadshow began its 11-country tour in India last month, sending a clear signal of the South Asian country's importance to big open source players like Novell.

The show in India visited the country's three capitals -- the business capital, Mumbai, on August 31; the IT capital, Bangalore, on September 2; and the political capital, Delhi, on September 3.

That the event was specifically targeted at business users was evident from the first keynote. Jeurgen Geck, CTO of SUSE Linux, welcomed the audience by discussing the advantages of Linux for customers. The rest of his presentation justified SUSE's commitment to putting Linux in the commercial environment.

Geck got along well with the audience as he used words that businesses like to hear. Many organizations aren't comfortable putting their applications under GPL, but Geck explained how doing exactly this, in releasing YaST under the GPL, works toward a comprehensive manageable Linux.

He also talked about optimizing the infrastructure and how SUSE is working toward consolidating the embedded market. After outlining the needs, Geck explained how Linux will meet them. In this part of the presentation, he talked about how Linux was all about cooperation, and about its modular and scalable nature and how it enables abstraction.

Technical sessions

Several technical solution sessions followed the keynote address. Paul Kangro and Niel Marquardt from Novell Asia Pacific did a good job of demonstrating SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 9. They first explained the product's theoretical basics and then guided the audience through an on-stage demo.

First the presenters showed the audience the key components of a Linux desktop -- everything from office applications to multimedia utilities. Some of the people who were seeing a Linux desktop for the first time were quite impressed. While they were aware of all the positive noises being made about the user-friendliness of the operating system, they had never expected it to be so cool and easy to use.

Both Paul and Neil tried engaging the audience with peppy humor ?- something that doesn't work well in this part of the world ?- and questions and feedback they had received at the other venues. The question "How many of you have used Linux?" got the minimum response in Mumbai and the maximum in Delhi.

A comprehensive feature list and a detailed demo of YaST followed. SUSE seemed to be elated that their GPLed YaST was quickly hacked by IBM for DB2 installation.


In an effort to get through to the absolutely non-technical attendee and get him up to date with the latest open source trends, Novell called on a special keynote speaker in Dr. Ashok Khemka, Joint Secretary (IT) from the state of Haryana.

Khemka started by explaining the concept of open source and gradually shifted to the principles of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) by contrasting them with those of the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

With the basics covered, Khemka moved on to highlighting the benefits of open source. Midway through the quick rundown, he remarked, "Usage of software is like learning a language." By the conclusion of his keynote he had used the phrase at least a dozen times. One of the slides during his take on the shortcomings of open source software listed lack of interoperability with other operating systems as a point of contention.

Khemka also said a word or two on the shortcomings of as an office suite. To further make his point, he citied how recently he had decided to buy updates to software of a proprietary application rather than going for an open source alternative, explaining that in his opinion there is a lack of manpower that can manage open source applications.

If it hadn't been for the good presentation and demos by Paul and Neil, the audiences might have agreed with Khemka.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 9 launched

The event also marked the launch of the SLES 9 distribution for enterprises of all sizes in India. Yearly maintenance service subscription for SLES 9 on the x86 architecture starts at Rs. 19839 (~$430) for a single server with two CPUs.

Overall, the events were a success, based on the high turnout. Novell did everything right in the presentations as well -- the sequence of speakers, the demos, using the right words to intrigue the audience, and last but not least, keeping the freebies for after the event!


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