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Commentary: Novell can add Linux's missing link

This commentary suggests the Novell Inc.'s purchase of SuSE Linux AG will provide the network infrastructure software Linux needs to be a complete enterprise platform.

Linux used to be the "almost there" enterprise operating system. Features, functionality and application support just didn't make the grade. That was then. In 2003, Linux arrived as a solid data center platform, thanks to firm support from major server vendors, the promise of a robust 2.6 release of the Linux kernel and Oracle's enterprise Linux database.

In 2004, I expect Novell to provide the missing link -- network infrastructure software -- that can make Linux a complete enterprise-wide operating system.

Of course, I know about Novell's recent failures in making acquisitions pay off and letting its flagship product -- NetWare -- flag. So, why -- you ask me -- do I think that Novell's acquisition of enterprise Linux distributor SuSE play any differently?

As editor of SearchEnterpriseLinux,com, I'm in constant contact with Linux professionals: CIOs, CTOs, system administrators, consultants and so on. They tell me that the time is right and the need is great for Novell NetWare on Linux.

Novell's timing is great, said Tony Mancill, a system administrator for Bank of America in Phoenix, Ariz. Sure, in the recent past enterprises have migrated off the NetWare platform, which stood as an un-integrated island in an IT infrastructure, to the more integrated Microsoft OS. But, Mancill said, 2003's large number of Linux data center migrations, combined with a bad summer for Microsoft security, Microsoft's license fee hikes and "the sheer fact that it's time to upgrade again, makes Novell's timing good."

A couple of years ago, businesses weren't ready for a Linux-based network infrastructure product, IT pros tell me. First, they needed the right database software and systems vendor support. Now that they've taken the first big step of migrating their data center databases and servers to Linux, they want to go all the way.

The need for a Linux-based network infrastructure alternative is critical now, said Golden Gate University CIO Anthony Hill. San Francisco-based GGU migrated its enterprise database to Linux in 2003. "What you've got now is a real split in IT operations between the data center architecture and your network architecture," said Hill. "In the data center, we can move to Linux .On the networking side, however, there are just two camps: Novell on NetWare or Windows."

So, even if you have consolidated back end servers on Linux, you still maintain a Windows skillset and a Linux skillset. "You haven't consolidated your enterprise," he said.

Many of our readers believe that Novell could provide an alternative to Microsoft by offering an enterprise-level network, desktop management and messaging platform than be run on Linux. Some already have plans to spearhead their organizations' migration to Novell on Linux in 2004.

Now, it's time for Novell and SuSE to provide the missing link.'s readers and this editor are crossing our fingers.

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