In Midst of Novell Merger, The Last Days of NetWare?

As the Novell acquisition continues, what will happen to NetWare? One thing seems clear: Legacy NetWare code is not long for this world.

By Brian Proffitt | Posted Jan 4, 2011
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As Novell and Attachmate continue to perform the ritual mating dance of corporate acquisition, Linux and open source community members are holding their breath, waiting to see what will happen to the SUSE Linux and openSUSE product lines.

In the midst of this, one question seems to be missing: What will happen to NetWare?

To get an idea of where NetWare might be going, it would be a good idea of finding out where the status of the old NetWare product line, now known as Novell's Open Enterprise Server (OES).

OES, introduced in 2003, is the successor to NetWare, in that it performs all of the same collaborative and network functions that NetWare used to. Instead of these functions working in the operating system layer, however, OES' functions are performed in the application layer, wrapped around either a SUSE Linux or NetWare kernel. The idea was to make it easy for legacy NetWare users to migrate to OES with a NetWare-kernel version, then ease them into OES with a Linux kernel.

From there, one would presume, Novell's sales teams could introduce these OES customers to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server installations and reap the benefits of those sales. But talking to Sophia Germanides, senior product marketing manager for Novell Open Enterprise Server, one gets a less transitory picture.

"Novell Open Enterprise Server is a flagship product for Novell. It is the upgrade path from NetWare. For a large segment of our customers, it is the product that defines their relationship with Novell," Germanides wrote in an online interview. "Networking, file, and print are the original collaboration services and are still mission-critical today. We continue to focus on innovating this product line, to further differentiate it from the alternatives in the market."

In some respects, the migration plan to OES is working. "...[M]ore than 75% of current NetWare-Open Enterprise Server customers have upgraded their systems to Open Enterprise Server on Linux," Germanides indicated.

OES customers declining

But, once that migration is done, what's happening to OES customers? Looking at Novell's own numbers, they are definitely on the decline.

"Sales of our OES and NetWare-related products have been declining for many years and declines at accelerated rates could offset or out-pace any growth in sales of our other products," states the annual financial report filed for fiscal 2010. "We terminated general support of our NetWare products beginning in March 2010. While customers are eligible to receive extended support for NetWare, some NetWare customers may migrate to a competing platform which would negatively impact our revenue. Our strategy is to stabilize these sales declines to the extent practicable with new product releases and other efforts; however, combined OES and NetWare-related product revenue declined by US$12.1 million, or 7 percent, in fiscal 2010, compared to the prior year."

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