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Attachmate plots new future for Novell

New owner of SUSE Linux and NetWare pledges continuity, support but layoffs spark uncertainty.

Attachmate's purchase of Novell Inc. was finalized April 27. Now, customers who still run products like SUSE Linux, Open Enterprise Server, Identity Manager, GroupWise and ZENworks want to know what's in store for them.

Attachmate  has promised to breathe new life into these franchises--indeed CEO Jeff Hawn even pledged continued support for NetWare, a server operating system that was very popular in the 1990s.

 Novell announced the end of support for Netware last year. But, "our philosophy is not to force people to move from anything," Hawn said. "Netware has still got a very large, a very loyal installed base and we intend to continue to focus on meeting their needs whether that’s in additional offerings on the road map, additional support offerings and the like."

Those words were less comforting to some in the Novell universe after last week's news of layoffs at Novell’s Provo, UT, offices. Some wondered about the future of Mono, while others looked at the eventual sale of the SUSE Linux business unit as being a natural next step.

Attachmate has set up four autonomous business units: Attachmate, NetIQ, Novell and SUSE.

Of the four, the Attachmate business unit provides products and services to help organizations keep using their legacy systems and applications. Products including host connectivity, legacy modernization, managed file transfer, and enterprise fraud management offerings. The NetIQ business unit will combine the existing NetIQ solutions with Novell's identity and security and data center management solutions, except for those in the SUSE portfolio.

The Novell  unit will focus on all other products and solutions aka the traditional Novell products, without SUSE Linux, including the collaboration and endpoint management solutions. SUSE will become an independent business.

Figuring out the Novell-SUSE patents
As part of the purchase agreement, Novell will sell 882 patents to CPTN Holdings LLC for $450 million. CPTN is a group that includes Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and EMC. The patent sale was criticized by open source advocates as well as European authorities that feared that the Novell open source patents could be used against open source vendors.

There was also concern about what would happen to Novell's UNIX copyrights, which were the subject of a protracted court battle with SCO. Novell has publicly said that Attachmate will keep the UNIX copyrights. Recently the U.S. Department of Justice ruled that Attachmate will keep a lot more than just UNIX, as the CPTN patent sale was adjusted to prevent moves against the open source ecosystem. As part of the tweaked deal, Microsoft will sell back to Attachmate all of the Novell patents that Microsoft would have otherwise acquired. Attachmate in turn will continue to receive license fees for the use of the Novell patents.

Erno the Korte, president of the Open Horizons user group - the world's largest Novell user community - is excited that the deal is done. "A period of uncertainty is now over and the restructuring process can be started now, which will hopefully allow Novell and SUSE as part of the Attachmate Group to be more agile in an ever-changing market."

End users that continue to use Novell products hope that Attachmate will keep its promise of continued support. On paper, none of the current Novell products is abandoned—they’re just divvied up into different product groups. Within these groups, even very old solutions, like the GroupWise collaboration suite and Windows Server alternative Open Enterprise Server will be revitalized, the company said.


About the expert
Sander van Vugt is an independent trainer and consultant living in the Netherlands. Van Vugt is an expert in Linux high availability, virtualization and performance and has completed several projects that implement all three. He is also the writer of various Linux-related books, such as
Beginning the Linux Command Line, Beginning Ubuntu Server Administration and Pro Ubuntu Server Administration.

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