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Novell's Time has Come

In each case, Novell was a day late and a dollar short. All the while, though, it still had these thousands of loyal, sometimes fanatical customers who yearned to be led somewhere, anywhere besides Windows. Enter Novell's latest master strategy.

So why should we expect Novell to succeed this time around with Linux?

For one thing, Linux is easier and cheaper for Novell to support than Unix ever was. More important, Novell is at the cusp of the uptake curve, not a year or three behind it. A confluence of market forces--growing frustration with Windows security vulnerabilities, an IT culture that's increasingly averse to costly proprietary alternatives such as Solaris--has enterprises seriously considering Linux for critical applications.

Novell isn't just crashing the Linux party. It's been moving steadily in this direction for three years. Before buying SuSE, whose operations are mainly in Europe, Novell already had about 600 Linux engineers to complement its committed network of resellers and integrators. Novell's eDirectory already runs on Linux, and its Nterprise Linux Services 1.0, due later this year, will bring file, print, messaging, management and portal services to the kernel. Its August acquisition of desktop Linux specialist Ximian has acclimated Novell to the open-source community.

All the while, Novell has resisted the temptation to make this a Noorda-esq grudge match with Microsoft. Although SuSE's Linux distribution is ultimately a threat to Microsoft's server hegemony, Novell (for now) is targeting upstart Linux distributor Red Hat as its chief competitor. It helps that IBM has invested $50 million in Novell, giving Novell's aspirations additional legitimacy, and giving Novell the financial muscle it'll need to hang tough as enterprises make up their minds about Linux.

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