Last week, some customers expressed concerns that Novell may soon withdraw support for proprietary applications as it embraces Linux and open source applications. In particular, some customers highlighted the risk to GroupWise, Novell's email and collaboration tool, which offers similar functionality to the open source alternatives SuSE Linux Openexchange Server and Evolution. At the time Steve Brown, the European vice-president of Novell, said that the company would continue providing support for GroupWise in the immediate future, but did not offer any long-term guarantees.
But Brian Green, Novell's European director of Linux solutions, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that Novell has committed itself to supporting SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 for five years, and that he expects the next version of GroupWise, due in June 2005, will be supported for a similar length of time. "I would imagine it [GroupWise support] would be for a period of five years," said Green.
He said that there is little overlap between Openexchange server, which is based on Netline's Open-Xchange, and GroupWise as they target different markets.
"Right now the customers using GroupWise tend to be medium-sized businesses with thousands of users, while Netline is for smaller businesses," said Green. "They don't overlap too much -- some of the technology in GroupWise is not available in Openexchange."
As for its NetWare operating system, he said the now-defunct NetWare 3 had been supported for 13 years and pointed out this was longer than Microsoft Windows NT was supported for. As for NetWare 7, the next version of NetWare that has been integrated with SuSE Linux in its upcoming Open Enterprise Server product, Green said he expects this will be supported for even longer.
"NetWare 5 as a product we launched in 1998," said Green "It is still a supported product. Do I see that type of support continuing? Certainly. Unless market conditions determine otherwise."
Novell claims to have around 90 million NetWare users and 35 million GroupWise users worldwide. But, these numbers are expected to fall over time -- analyst group IDC predicted in 2003 that Novell's share of the server operating system market would fall to 1.3 percent by 2006.