Enterprise Linux Log

May 17 2007   5:16PM GMT

Why Novell fan left NetWare, SUSE behind

ITKE ITKE Profile: ITKE

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 jstafford@techtarget.com

12  Comments on this Post

 
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  • ITKE
    I agree with Jim Klein. I started using Suse 8 first as my Desktop and finally as a server for Tomcat applications and firewall. But this partnership Novel/Microsoft doesn't smells very good to me. Here in Brazil there's a discussion about setting ODF as an ISO standard versus MS initiative to shove down our throats (once again) their own format, OOXML. I know this discussion is set also in the rest of the world, by the ODF Alliance. As I posted in a comment two months ago, I don't mind stop using Suse as a Desktop or server and move to Debian or RedHat. The community has to be preserved, not only its ideological concerns, but also the purpose itself, for making things good for everyone. If this partnership starts to be again unilateral, I'd say "Seeya!" PS: There's a very interesting blog from Jomar Silva, Director for ODF Alliance - Chapter Brasil. Cheers, Andre Miguel. .
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  • ITKE
    We are a long time Novell Netware now Novell OES and Redhat Linux shop, supporting some 200 users. We also have a number of Windows 2000 and 2003 servers in the environment. After many years on the IT side of the business, I have come to believe there are no perfect network solutions. I believe that Novell has failed to market their products in such a way as to know where they are a good fit. The real issue I have with Novell is where and what will they be in a year. The direction seems to be such a moving target. Microsoft has priced and licensed their products so far out of the real world that mid size businesses have to look to real viable alternatives. Their products do lead the way in market usage, but also lead in problems and mediocrity. Apple has made inroads but has a long way to go to get a foothold in the enterprise. I don't know if Novell is a dead end as the author noted, but they may not be far from it.
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  • ITKE
    You're wrong. Red Hat is not a proprietary vendor. They are 100% Open Source. The proof is that you can get a 100% Red Hat Enterprise clone from Centos.org, complete with ongoing updates and security patches. True, Red Hat does not hand out executeable programs, but that's not a problem because they hand out source code.
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  • ITKE
    Excuse me, Mr. Webber, but we have a problem with the below statement in your article. "For the most part, Red Hat — though a proprietary products vendor — stays true to the community spirit of open source software." That's just plain WRONG. Red Hat is emphatically not a "proprietary products vendor." My goodness, I can't think of a single thing that Red Hat has ever written that they *didn't* released under the GNU GPL/LGPL! Karl O. Pinc mentioned CentOS. Guess what? I use CentOS, and it's true; it's a complete clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux...using Red Hat's own source code. Matter of fact, I just built a failover cluster with the new CentOS v5, and it works amazingly well. Please, get your facts straight before you write an article. What you said was a major factual error. Please also correct your article. Red Hat is an open source software development company, not proprietary.
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  • ITKE
    Red Hat is NOT 100% Open Source. CentOS is NOT RedHat. Please remember that the published source code is REQUIRED by the GPL. They do good things for the Open Source community (the latest release of fonts is a great example), but are a business as well (and are out to make money just like any other vendor). Just ask for their Certificate System (not open source...only published APIs)...it doesn't exist except in binary form. Remember their proprietary version of PostgreSQL? Please don't generalize just because CentOS has rebuilt RHEL as an open source distro (with lots of sweat I might add). Believe me...RedHat isn't 'helping' to create this project...it competes with their business model of tying 'licensing' fees via 'support contracts' (just a different form of 'licensing' software actually). Red Hat Command Center? Haven't seen any code for that yet either. This list will surely continue as time progresses. Try teaching a "JBoss" or "Red Hat Linux" 'branded' class...most folks these days get nasty 'trademark' letters from the RH legal department. What are they supposed to call it: "Introduction to an Enterprise-class Linux Distribution derived from sources freely provided to the public by a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor administration"? Oh, Brother.
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  • ITKE
    This article is generally speaking, a waste of time. Sorry to say that, but the arguments about Novells' software just don't hold up. I work for a company, that is among also a Novell partner shop. I'm a systems engineer since 2001 and most of that time I've been working with Netware, SuSE and other security and identity products. As far as Linux goes, SuSE is no different than RedHat or any other enterprise Linux, I think it's even easier to manage. As long as you know what you are doing, you'll be fine. And if one happens to have Open Enterprise Server, management is a walk in the park. Some people I know have problems with OpenSuse, but all of the problems I analysed were due to poor knowledge about general networking, protocols or just lack of RTFM...
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  • ITKE
    We're a higher ed site with roughly 16,000 unique users per semester. We ran Netware from version 3.1 up to NW6.1 / OES. I took years, but Novell finally finished driving away our business almost 1 year ago now through their crap support, nearly total neglect of the Netware kernel (whilst publicly claiming that it'd be fully supported for "years to come") and arrogant attempt to shove SUSE down our throats. After the screwing we endured from Novell I never seriously considered migrating *anything* to SUSE or OES/Linux. Our Linux boxes have always been Redhat, and the (poor) desktop users have been migrated to Windows 2K3 servers, which have behaved shockingly well (much to my shock). Novell's been in a downward spiral for years. Heck, I'll bet they *Still* don't have a freaking "Netware Client for Linux" that's worth a crap. It's a tragic situation, but since we gave 'em the finger and moved on I've been a happier guy. I just deal with the Linux boxes and security these days. The Linux mostly "just runs", and the fleet of Windows boxen keeps the security landscape entertaining ;-) Surreal
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  • ITKE
    Anonymous commenter #6 does not seem to understand what Open Source is. It means you reveal the source, at least to your customers. It means anybody with the source can then produce a functionally equalivent product, as Centos is to Red Hat Enterprise. It does _not_ mean you give up your trademarks or give every advantage to the competition. Linus Torvalds owns a trademark on "Linux", and has sued people to keep them from using the trademark inappropirately. Surely Linux is still Open Source? There is no difference between Linus and Red Hat regards trademarks. Both are protecting their trademark lest they lose it. As far as your arguments about Red Hat opening up their code, can you name anything that was in Red Hat's "proprietary" database that's not now in PostgreSQL? Red Hat makes kernel improvements too, and puts them in their products before they get into the mainline kernel. What's incompatible with Open Source there? The Red Hat Command Center they just acquired last fall, I'm sure it takes time to ensure they've got all the licenses they need to make the product Open Source. And it takes time to ensure the code has no gaping security holes, evident to those have the source. As far as their Certificate System, they've been promising to release it as Open Source since they bought it. It has been 3 years, but because it's a security product I'm sure they want to do it right. They still have plans to release it. Red Hat has a consistent history of releasing what they buy as Open Source, not to mention the code they write in-house. The Netscape Directory Server and JBoss come to mind, as does RPM. Until they falter I'm willing to give them the time they need to get their licensing, and their code, in order. They do need to put some effort into staying in business after all.
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  • ITKE
    Gary Webber emailed us and shared his story: "I work for a small school district in western Montana. I started using Mandrake Linux for the file server that serves the grading and attendance program about 5 years ago. For this school year, I moved to SUSE 10.0. I had some early problems with updates, but it has worked very well for us and will still be on the server next fall. It has been very reliable and trouble-free once I had it set up correctly."
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  • ITKE
    W. Anderson emailed us with his experiences: "In a slightly similar vein, I too had moved from a reliable, robust environment that was dying -- IBM OS/2 to GNU/Linux, particularly Novell's SUSE as a sensible choice for progress and good business. Novell was chosen over Red Hat, although I was familiar with both, since I had been, prior to the Novell purchase of SUSE, a SUSE GMBH of Gernamy reseller and consultant to small businesses. However, my experiences with and treatment by Novell were equally ridiculous. For more than nine months, I attempted without success to get Novell to work with Hotel Property Management System (PMS) software vendor for implementing and configuring Novell SLES9 with one of my hotel clients. Not only did they agree with but ignore my concerns about the importance of such project collaboration, since it was the first GNU/Linux install for the vendor, but in the end, referred me to a Novell business partner near the client that had long ago abandoned Novell for Microsoft. The partner even told me that they would not ever recommend Novell SuSE (for which they had no-one trained or interested). The most outrageous, and culminating point of this saga was Novell's statement to me, from senior officials, that if a new Novell SUSE-certified partner were available to my client, the present Novell partner -- as result of their long established relationship with Novell -- could acceptably denigrate SUSE GNU/Linux in favour of Microsoft products and services. In discussing above development with Novell, as well as my and my clients' concerns about threats against us made by Microsoft at the "historic patent agreement" meeting regarding GNU/Linux end-user legal suits, we were basically brushed off without any response. How sick is that? In the end, I secured a RHEL-certified support company to handle the software/services implementation, which is going extremely well. Not only am I saddened and disappointed about the recent actions of and developments within Novell -- those [actions] of Microsoft I expect no different -- I could not, under any circumstances at this time, consider doing business with Novell."
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  • ITKE
    Keith Richards offered us his tale: "I *have* been using SUSE Linux since 1999 -- version 5.2 IIRC. I upgraded from 9.2 to 10.1 at the end of last year. Two weeks into the upgrade, the announcement about Novell teaming up with Microsoft came out. I could not believe it. I felt betrayed, to say the least. After trying a few other free distros, I have now settled on running Fedora Core 6. I like it a lot better than SUSE. There were a few major differences, but it did not take long to get used to Fedora Core. The main differences are the partitioner programs. I now use a stand-alone partitioner program called Gparted. It boots from a live CD, which is handy. That means whatever Linux distro I choose, I still have access to the same partitioner for setting up my hard drives. SUSE were a bit slow at upgrading their packages to newer versions. FC tends to be the testing ground for RHEL -- the installation screen is virtually identical. I think RH likes to test out packages under FC first, then move them across to RHEL when they are satisfied those packages are stable enough for paying customers. So Microsoft and Novell shacking up together has done me a favor, by helping me to find what I think is a much better distro. What I learned under Fedora Core should make the transition to RHEL very easy. A lot easier than going from SUSE to FC."
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  • ITKE
    We're not abandoning Novell, and we're not an educational institution, although we are government. Our big reason for staying is directory services--with over 22,000 users at over 100 locations, no one else offers a directory that is as easy to manage. On the other hand, we have a number of other OS platforms, too. We have about 400 NetWare/OES servers, and close to 300 Windows servers, which are used for specific applications and web servers. We have a limited Active Directory deployment, but mostly for people who have a reason to connect to the OS level of the Windows servers. We also run AIX, Solaris, and have an IBM Mainframe. We are also starting to deploy some Red Hat/Centos servers. We are currently making plans to migrate our existing NetWare servers to OES/Linux, to maintain our directory, file, and print services. But just about everything else is running on other platforms. I guess in a large environment such as ours, it's not so important to standardize on a single vendor/platform.
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