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"Linux Is Simply Good Business," Says Novell's Messman in LinuxWorld Keynote

"With Linux you can simply do more, for less," he says.

"Novell is a billion-dollar company that’s wagering its future on open source," said Novell CEO Jack Messman, in opening the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo today at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City with his first ever keynote address at a LinuxWorld show.

His clear message: it’s not only possible but profitable to build a business around open source.

The title of his keynote, "Open Source Meets Traditional Software Development," could almost have been the title of a book about the last year at Novell, a year in which the Utah-based company has bought Ximian and SUSE Linux and thrust itself into the forefront of Open Source after 20 years in the business of enterprise software that is 100% proprietary .

If the packed keynote hall was any indication, there were a great many people hoping to hear how Utah-based Novell had squared the circle, how it had gone about the transition of its business model, its modus operandi, everything. 

"Open Source changes how innovation gets done," Messman assured his audience (preaching to the choir somewhat). "It revolutionizes speed to market, and creates unparalleled choice for customers," he added. 

“2004 will I believe be the year that marks the arrival of Linux into the core of the enterprise,” he continued. 

According to Messman, Novell's 20 years of being an enterprise software vendor gives Novell a head start on other vendors who, like Novell, have centered on proprietary software until now.

"This talk should really have been called 'How to Change Minds,'" he said. "Open Source changes everything. Customers gain control by being able to see code. Vendors lose the control that they were used to." 

“There are forces out there doing their best to muddy the waters”

Of course it hasn't been as simple as all that in 2003. “There are forces out there doing their best to muddy the waters,” Messman said, in a clear reference to SCO.

He then went through many of the arguments surrounding moving to Linux. ("As an enterprise software vendor launching into Linux," he noted, "Novell hears every question again and again.")

CIOs find pretty daunting the idea that the community owns the code, Messman explained. Different pieces of the software stack are owned by different vendors. What they want is support: one call, “one throat to choke.”

Messman moved on to the SCO issue. “Another Utah-based company,” as he called SCO, "has raised IP issues. As a CIO you always have to worry about the risks. Customers have been buying proprietary software for years, and have always received indemnification. We need to offer solutions that offer customers peace of mind."

Then he took a side-swipe at  a certain company outside of Utah. "An unnamed proprietary monopolist says 'Who do you trust – us or a hacker in China?' But it’s not that black and white. The Linux community needs to do a better job providing management and security tools so that customers can have peace of mind."

"By addressing the various issues around support and liability," Messman contended, "we can help customers put OS right at the core of the business. The TCO savings for Linux vs Windows is 50% –  you can simply do more, for less."

"As we move Open Source to the enterprise we want to make clear these issues around security, cost, support, and reliability," Messman said. "I believe 2004 we will see great strides on this front."

From a vendor perspective, Messman continued, changes are even more fundamental.

"How do you make money out of open source? It is a development model –  but it is also becoming a business model. People will pay for the convenience of 'free' software. Companies like Novell have invested millions of dollars in proprietary code which it is now contributing to the community – such as its UDDI server."

He underlined that profit and open source can co-exist. "Vendors can build a business model because enterprises don’t like frequent change in their operating environment. A vendor that can manage change and create stability in a rapidly changing environment, that can create order and stability and 24x7 support, will thrive." 

Global enterprises need that quality support on a global, 'follow the sun' basis, he added. "Round the clock."

“It’s critical to get beyond religious wars."

Moving to the proprietary vs open source issue, Messman said “It’s critical to get beyond religious wars."

"We don’t see a contradiction between supplying a free Linux distribution and supplying value-add services on Linux that we charge for," Messman asserted. “Linux is simply good business.”

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SYS-CON's Linux News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the Linux world and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for IT/IS managers and other business decision-makers.

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