Enterprise Unix Roundup: This Is Linux at Brainshare

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Mar 24, 2006

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If you're looking for pretty products, quippy quotes, and marketing mojo, Salt Lake City was the place to be this week. What do Tilda, YaKuake, and YeahWM have in common with Quake, DOOM, and Half-Life?

Brian Proffitt
Amy Newman

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, KJV).

Yes, like the blossoms of the flowers, the swallows of Capistrano, March Madness, and the first pitch of baseball, Spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere. And with it comes the not-quite-so-noble Season of the Open Source Events. In April, it will be the Boston edition of the LinuxWorld Conference and Exposition and the Desktop Linux Summit in San Diego. In May, Nashville will host the 2006 Red Hat Summit.

This month? This month sees the first event of the season: Novell Brainshare Global 2006 — six days of one vendor trying to inspire the entire IT world to think "Red Who?"

This year it worked moderately well, as Novell dominated the press cycle with pretty products, quippy quotes, and marketing mojo. Most eyes were focused on Salt Lake City.

By far the biggest announcement — or, at least, the biggest unleaked announcement — was the release of the Novell ZENworks 7 Linux Management—Dell Edition. Yes, that would be the same Dell that garnered a lot of scrutiny of late from the open source community regarding its splitting-hairs definition of Linux workstations (which it does admit to selling) and Linux desktops (which it does not admit it sells). On the server side of things, Dell is a bit more willing to partner with Linux companies, in this case working with Novell to merge Dell-centric tools into the ZENworks systems management product.

A bone to the open source community, perhaps, which got royally ticked off when Novell contemplated dumping official KDE support for the SLES line.

Of more significance was the part of the announcement that read "Novell ZENworks 7 Linux Management—Dell Edition further simplifies Linux systems management by supporting both Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server environments and applications." Which puts a nice choke hold on the notion that you can use only Novell products to manage Novell's Linux distributions. It will be interesting to see what, if any, riposte Red Hat will have for this.

There was also the usual product demos. U.S. audiences got to see the demos of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and SUSE Linux Desktop for the first time. (European users got to see these demoed earlier this year in France.) Everyone coming out out of these demonstrations seems reasonably impressed, although we'll reserve judgment until the products are in our clutches. Of note is the new name: It's not Novell Linux Desktop any more, it's back to SUSE. A bone to the open source community, perhaps, which got royally ticked off when Novell contemplated dumping official KDE support for the SLES line.

If so, Novell may have a wee bit more to learn about community relations, particularly its CEO Jack Messman. He was quoted in an interview with the U.K. press as saying "Because of the costs of software and hardware development you'll find two major open source operating systems left in a few years: Red Hat and Novell."

That's the kind of quote that makes you wonder what goes through executive's heads. Only two major open source operating systems? Is he kidding? After we get done laughing, we could rattle off several long-term members of the enterprise open source OS team, starting with Solaris, Ubuntu, Mandriva, and whatever the heck product the DCC eventually manages to churn out. Not to mention anyone of more than 100 or so existing or potential Linux distributions that could capture market share at the drop of a, er, hat.

There is little doubt that Novell and Red Hat are and will continue to be the dominant players in the enterprise Linux scene for quite some time. But the open source community has too much diversity to let that situation remain for long. And to imply otherwise, Novell, is just going to anger your potential development volunteer/work base. Again.

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