Leaving Novell, despite years of loyalty, for Red Hat Linux
At Red Hat Summit last week, I talked to a Novell NetWare diehard whose relationship with and love for Novell died, well, hard.
This is just one IT manager’s story, but it mirrors that of a number of NetWare users I’ve met, even those who have hung on to NetWare (mostly in a limited way).
Like many users, Jim Klein realized a few years ago that NetWare was a “dead-end street”. Once a market leading network operating system and a popular choice for file-and-print sharing on commodity Intel-based servers, NetWare offered a good alternative to Unix. Then Microsoft Windows for Intel servers came on strong in the mid-1990s with sharing capabilities, GUI installation and brilliant marketing. Novell didn’t keep up on the marketing or ease of installation. Although loyalists, particularly in the education marketplace, held on, the roadmap for NetWare just didn’t look promising.
Klein, IT services/technology director at Santa Clarita, Calif.-based Saugus Union School District (SUSD), began looking for alternatives. He ruled out Microsoft Windows because management costs were higher, security problems were rampant then, and he didn’t want to get locked into Microsoft’s upgrade routine.
“When you come from a NetWare shop, you’re used to running pretty lean, with a low administrator per server ratio. Running Windows would have taken us in the opposite direction.”
At first glance, Mac OS X 10 Server looked good, and SUSD was forming a deployment plan on that platform when Novell acquired SUSE Linux. Klein’s group then saw the opportunity to stay with Novell and get an operating system with a lot of life in it.
Unfortunately, SUSE glitches caused trouble, and Novell didn’t offer much help to fix problems.
“We tried it, tried to get Novell to help us make it all come together, but Novell didn’t come through.”
Frustrated, Klein tested Red Hat’s distribution in file servers. It worked well, and support was good, too. He tried it for Web services, and then moved on and found out that it worked well for almost all SUSD’s systems and applications.
For the most part, Red Hat — though a proprietary products vendor — stays true to the community spirit of open source software. For instance, Red Hat bought Netscape Directory Server and threw it on open source and gave it to the community, Klein said.
“Once I bought into the community, I became community-oriented. That’s Red Hat’s strength, and that’s where Novell falls short. To me, it looks like Novell just uses Linux as an entry to selling proprietary products to put on top of it. As for open source, it looks like Novell tosses its dead products out to the community.”
The partnership between Microsoft and Novell takes that approach — using Linux as a hook to sell proprietary products — a giant leap forward, in Klein’s opinion.
“It looks like they’re trying to influence the bench-sitters, those who have wanted to go down the Linux path but play it safe.”
On the flip side, a number of educational institutions I know of have stuck with Novell, NetWare, GroupWise and SUSE. I wonder: Does Novell’s reach extend beyond that market? I’d like to hear from some users. Did your Novell NetWare and SUSE experience end in divorce, or is it still a love affair? Let me know by commenting or writing to me a firstname.lastname@example.org