Novell Inc. may be a distant No. 2 to Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat. Inc. in sales of its open source operating system. But that doesn’t daunt Justin Steinman, Novell’s director of product marketing, Linux and Open Platform Solutions.
In an informal chat over lunch at the Naked Fish around the corner from Novell headquarters in Waltham, Ma., Steinman said his landing at Novell four years ago, right out of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, was great timing ahead of the current growth curve and a great opportunity to be part of Roger Levy’s management team. (Levy is senior vice president, general manager, Open Platform Solutions.)
Growth is the story with Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise, with billings climbing 200 percent last year, due to $156 million in sales of Microsoft SUSE certificates during the past six quarters, plus organic growth in SUSE’s core customer base, Steinman said. SUSE added 4,700 new customers last year, which collectively are an “arrowhead for growth,” helping to boost new business orders by 69% in the first quarter of 2008 and 38% in the second, he said. Novell’s status as a preferred partner to Microsoft and SAP might sway some prospects into the customer column as well, he said.
”But Microsoft (which committed to selling $240 million in SUSE certificates as part of its 2006 agreement with Novell), is less and less a part of our Linux business because the core [customer base]is growing,” he said. “I’m very bullish on Novell.”
The economics of open source are “very compelling,” and businesses like having the control that comes with access to the source code, he added.
Steinman wasn’t divulging any secrets over lunch but he did say hat Platespin, which was acquired earlier this year, should be fully integrated into SUSE by Nov. 1 and that SUSE 11 is on track for release in the first half of next year.
Novell also is busy completing work on open-source translators for Microsoft’s System Center, he added, including systems management, document format, accessibility for the disabled, directory and identity, virtualization and the Moonlight open source version of Microsoft’s Silverlight web browser plug-in.
With customers like Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines and German Air Traffic Control, Novell is proving that Linux is ready for mission-critical workloads, he added. At the same time, Novell SUSE is reaching out to small- and medium-sized businesses with its JeOS (Just Enough Operating System) mini-operating system appliance for building applications because it enables ISV’s to serve that market, he said. JeOS is downloadale in beta. More building tools for JeOS are expected soon.