Novell chief: We helped Microsoft be more open

Summary:The 2006 deal between the two companies played a key part in Microsoft's decision to share more of its information with the rest of the industry, says Ron Hovsepian developers. I think that what is more important, from my perspective, is that, as we have focused on interoperability between open source and proprietary, that has attracted people from the community who realise that is the reality of what is going on in most businesses.

Under former chief executive Jack Messman, Novell unveiled a commitment to moving the majority of its own internal IT systems to open source. Is this something that you are continuing with or has it been abandoned in light of the mixed-source message you are now putting out?
I don't know that he ever committed to moving 100 percent of systems to open source. What I am very clear on is that we use our IT function as a showcase and I know for a fact we are a showcase for Linux on the server. Additionally, what we spoke about more publicly is our desktop migration and we have continued to do that desktop migration. I am using it and I am not the most technical guy on the team, but I didn't go through any pain and didn't really need any special training.

Has that enabled you to extend the life of the desktops?
Absolutely, we definitely get more life out of the desktops from running Linux on them.

How could a possible recession in the US and slowdown in other markets affect Novell in the immediate future?
I will share two pieces of information with you around this. The first is that around 40 percent of our revenues come from the public sector, and — not that they don't feel the pressure; they do feel the pressure — but it gives a level of insulation to the company compared to if we had 80 percent financial-services customers. That being said, the other important piece of information is the market for servers and the value proposition that Linux offers. We really see a pressure in the market to cut down complexity and costs which will drive Windows-to-Linux migrations, so we do see that as continuing and being a help. I don't say we are completely insulated but I think we are in a good position in relative terms.

Is the new Fossa strategy that you laid out this week an attempt to add some momentum to the company, given that you are not pushing the open-source mantra as much as before?
No, I don't think so. I think you are looking for deeper meaning that is not there. It is really about how and where the corporate enterprise world is going. That will be our lifeblood and, if we don't get [the Fossa strategy], then, over time, we won't have the cash to put back into the community to do the things that need doing. Part of what we did, for better or worse, is to help bridge that conversation and we are going to keep that focus on IT continuing to work as one, while being vigorously committed to open source. I think someone is going to write about it one day — this concept of bridging the gap between proprietary and open source rather than dealing with it in purely binary terms, where it is one or the other. For me that is the reality of the market and it is going to resonate more with businesses.

But do the market and investors respond to easy messages as well? The acquisition of Suse did give a certain boost to Novell's fortunes.
And then what did it do after that? It came right back down. We have got to push on with this message that IT must work as one because that is the reality of what businesses are experiencing right now.

What did you make of Microsoft's open specification promise?
We think it is great, absolutely in line with their desire to try to be more open, and you have to respect that. As a company that is going through many different metamorphoses, I give them a lot of credit for their desire to be more open. Is it the way we would have done it or the way we would want it? No. But is it making the right steps in the right direction.

And they have only agreed not to sue non-commercial Linux offerings, right?
Well, you know, crawl, walk, run… If we weren't in this relationship, then do you think they would be where they are now?

So you are saying that your 2006 agreement with Microsoft laid the ground for their alleged commitment to be more open early this year?
Absolutely, they have been much more open since that point.

Topics: Developer


"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism." Hunter S. Thompson Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journ... Full Bio

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