Novell still running Windows

Novell still running Windows

Summary: Novell may be passionately evangelising Linux and Open Office on the desktop but more than half of its own employees can still boot Microsoft Windows and Office if they wish. Ron Hovsepian, Novell's president, speaking at a press event in Sydney, conceded that "about 2,000 employees right now out of 5,000 are single-boot only, which is Linux only, the rest are dual-boot.

Novell may be passionately evangelising Linux and Open Office on the desktop but more than half of its own employees can still boot Microsoft Windows and Office if they wish.

Ron Hovsepian, Novell's president, speaking at a press event in Sydney, conceded that "about 2,000 employees right now out of 5,000 are single-boot only, which is Linux only, the rest are dual-boot." He said that a project to migrate the 3,000 dual-boot workers to open source is likely to be completed over the next year or so.

The shift from Windows and Office to the open source software was first mooted in March 2004, with chief information officer Debra Anderson handed the task.

At the time, Anderson said she hoped most of Novell's staff would have moved to Linux and the office suite by mid-2005.

Hovsepian's remarks indicate Novell will have at most a few months' experience as a complete Linux and open source desktop shop behind it when, according to the vendor's predictions, the software starts taking off in the mainstream. He told ZDNet Australia sister site CNET on Friday in the United States that Linux on the desktop would start taking off over the next 12 to 18 months, with the scheduled mid-2006 release of SuSE Linux Desktop 10 being one of the factors fuelling growth.

However, while Hovsepian today stressed Novell was "in the process of finishing the migration right now," and Anderson acknowledged back in 2004 the numbers would never be clear cut because of dual-booting scenarios, the lengthy time frame required raises questions about the practical challenges for enterprises examining desktop Linux and open source software rollouts.

Such rollouts have been extremely scarce in Australia, with few organisations prepared to go public with a desktop Linux implementation.

In response to a question from ZDNet Australia on whether Novell had in fact been contracted for any sort of enterprise desktop Linux deployment down under, Hovsepian played it cool.

"None that we can chat about at this point," he said.

The Novell executive said in Sydney the vendor's desktop Linux implementation had been missing some of the pieces enterprises needed, but said version 10 of the software would help the market for desktop Linux pick up.

Regarding his company's own Linux migration, Hovsepian said Novell had learnt a lot from the implementation, and overcome challenges involving, for example, porting macros from Microsoft Office to

"We've had actually very good success with it," he said. "We learned a lot about migration tools, learned a lot about what the usability pieces are."

Topics: Open Source, Enterprise Software, Linux, Microsoft, Windows

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  • Failure and Disappointment

    Soooo.... their timeline is stretched for their own internal migration. Having 3,000 desktops out of 5,000 dual-booting Windows and Linux and the remaining 2,000 single-booting Linux still means all 5,000 can boot Linux. And all 5,000 can run

    The article implies that Novell's experience with desktop Linux deployment is too limited to qualify it to help others do the same. Who is better qualified in your estimation--ZDNet, Dell, Microsoft? You seem to be discounting their experience to insinuate that either they are not ready to help others migrate, or that Linux is not ready for the desktop. Being a desktop Linux user of five years, a bus driver of 17 years, and having never taken any computer courses in my life, I challenge you to take the position that Linux is not ready for the average desktop computer user. And if I were to choose a vendor to help my organization deploy Linux on the desktop, I would want one with exactly Novell's experience under its belt to help steer my organization clear of any hurdles it discovered on the way.

    The fact that they are making the transition at all speaks louder about their commitment to Linux than the delays in their timeline do to their competance at desktop Linux deployment, regardless of your article's slant.

    It's amazing that with such a successful example of desktop Linux deployment in progress being handed to you on a silver platter that you look for and "find" a story of failure and disappointment. How many other Linux vendors do you know of who have deployed Linux throughout their own organizations on the desktop, let alone any who have done so in such a public manner.

    I commend them. Having their own internal organization running the same software they sell to others gives them immense opportunities for quality feedback that they can poor back into development. And it gives them a level of credibility most other vendors cannot match.
  • Novell products run on Windows too

    I'm one of the many Novell employees that have a dual-boot machine. Of course, it's a no-brainer that I must be able to boot Windows because the product I work on and support runs on Netware/Linux and, yes, Windows. So, in order to do development work or reproduce problems and fix them, I have Windows on one of my machines. I also have a single-boot Linux machine and a single-boot Netware machine. I don't have *any* single-boot Windows machines in my office. I also never use MS Office (not even installed on my Windows box). I am currently typing this in from my Linux machine.
  • And windows developers can support Windows from Linux???

    Many of Novell employees support windows products. Supporting a windows product from a Linux box would be a real trick.
  • Re: Novell products run on Windows too

    Hi Dave,

    thanks for your comments!

    Of course we realise that lots of Novell employees need to use Windows for a variety of tasks related to support, development etc. The aim of this article was simply to follow up the company's public statement back in March 2004 that it would move all of its employees to Linux desktops. I think this is a particularly appropriate time for such a follow-up given that Novell is placing a heavy emphasis on trying to move its customers across to Linux desktops with SuSE 10.

    Hope this helps!

    Kind regards,

    Renai LeMay
    News Journalist
    ZDNet Australia
  • Re: Supporting Windows from Linux

    Hi there,

    while I totally agree with this statement, I wonder if it would be possible to do some of this support by running Windows under emulation within a product like VMWare?

    Kind regards,

    Renai LeMay
    News Journalist
    ZDNet Australia
  • re: Failure and disappointment

    Hi there,

    I commend Novell too! Any initiative from a software vendor that brings greater competition to the marketplace can only deliver benefits for IT managers, in my opinion. Eating your own dogfood is a must for technology companies like Novell.

    I would certainly agree that Novell is one of the best qualified companies to help with Linux migrations, and I'm sure their own internal migration has given them a lot of experience in this area.

    From a personal perspective, I've been running a dual boot setup with Linux and Windows on the desktop for around 8 years now. I also have an Apple with Mac OS X and run Solaris, OpenBSD, NetBSD, FreeBSD, and some other weird and wonderful operating systems.

    I'm also a former Linux systems administrator, so I know Linux inside out.

    From this perspective Linux is certainly usable on desktops. The real test of the software for enterprise deployments, however, is purely in the hands of IT managers, and I haven't seen many rollouts in that sphere yet.

    I also think it's important to follow up on stories such as Novell's migration to see what's happening several years down the track, and the company's experience undoubtedly raises questions that need to be asked by IT managers considering Linux deployments.

    Kind regards,

    Renai LeMay
    News Journalist
    ZDNet Australia
  • Clarification

    As one of the Novellians with single boot Linux, I find this story a bit misleading. We've got about 2,300 employees who are single boot Linux now, which is approaching 50%, and the rest are dual boot. So it's accurate to say that a large number of employees still have Windows on their machines, but many, if not most, are working on the Linux side.

    There are reasons for this. Many engineers and sales people have to continue to have a Windows option, We develop cross platform solutions and we always test and deploy our solutions internally before we sell them. So we need multiple platforms. Most Novell engineers have multiple workstations, including Linux and Windows, which they need for debugging and other tasks. Many sales guys need Windows to demo on the platform our customers are using. That will continue for some time. So you can expect us to continue to deploy Windows desktops. But the company is definitely tapping Linux as our core desktop platform.

    Internally, on the server side, we use primarily SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and OES, our own products. Again, however, because we sell products for heterogeneous environments, we will maintain Windows servers within our environment so we can understand what our customers face. That in no way suggests we're not committed to moving to open source and open standards based solutions.

    Finally, the whole company is now on OpenOffice, which we've always indicated would be stage one of the transition. Our standard document exchange within Novell is now OpenDocument format, the default in OpenOffice 2.0.

    Sarah Mills
  • passionately evangelising

    Any article that begins with a phrase such as "passionately evangelising" can pretty much be ignored anyway ... no matter the OS.
  • Maybe, but why?

    You are still running Windows. Just in VMware. Debugging system level drivers in VMware is also difficult.
  • Re: Clarification

    That's pretty much the situation I had assumed when I read the article.

    Without quantifying the figures stated in the article, they are a pretty meaningless statistic. The article says 3000 are still on dual-boot, but no mention of a percentage of the time each of those users spends in Linux and in Windows, no mention of how many of the 3000 are supporting Windows products and therefore still need the ability of booting into Windows...

    I use SUSE pretty much all of the time. I have a PC in the office with Windows on it, but that gets booted very occassionally when I have to demo for a customer or produce a piece or work for the customer that must be written in a Windows only tool.

    Until all of my customers have migrated away from Windows, I will need to keep a Windows machine around for support and development purposes. As Sarah Mills and David Wilbur point out, Novell are a cross platform company, so until Windows dies a horrible death, they will need to keep some machines dual-booting into Windows. This doesn't mean that those users have to use Windows day-in-day-out.

    The only relevant figure would have been how many are refusing to transfer to Linux and only ever boot into Windows...
  • From A Novell Employee Running Linux...

    I for one have been eating our own dog food for quite some time (about a 1 1/2 years now) and I am here to report that the switch to Linux from Windows is more than just having the apps ready.

    Many of my co-workers are still using Windows because they have the perception that they are more "productive" in Windows than Linux. Of course, when I run into those folks I show them the benefits of running things such as CrossOver Office from our friends at CodeWeavers or even VMWare for those of us who need full blown Windows installs to run certain apps. Some of them make the switch and some of them don't... I guess the old saying about bringing the horse to water applies here.

    I for one do have a dual boot to Windows but that is because I have yet to find a good DVD player that (a) works in the version of Linux that I'm running (SLED 10 Beta 9) AND (b) supports menus.

    I know there are other colleagues of mine that still boot to Windows to run things like Broadband wireless cards that aren't supported in Linux and other such hardware but this is more the exception than the norm.

    I for one applaud you both for supporting our efforts and I hope that the negative spin the reporter has put on our migration does not taint the efforts we have all been putting forth in making the migration successful.
  • Microsoft is Migrating to Linux

    Microsoft started Migrating to Linux and Building 17 of MS headquarters is full of hundreds or thousands of servers and PCs running Linux. It was confirmed by Bill Hilf Director of MS Platform Technology Strategy Group. Just read the following article:,2180,1813675,00.asp
  • Novell was the only IPX software I've ever personnally experienced take out an O

    Sorry! Their legal department kept me on the phone for 45 minutes till I said IP address and disclosed any responsibility. And this is the truth. I'll have none of that.
  • perception

    perception and reality can be mixed, sometimes the perception realy is the reality of the situation...
  • Luis can't read

    Yes there is a lab...there are a huge number of labs on campus, some run by HP, Dell, EMC, Cisco, even labs where all the vendors are mixed together. It is all about integration like moving Services for Unix into the core Longhorn product, making Windows more Unix compliant than any Linux version.
  • NetWare is dead

    From the sounds of it NetWare is finally dead, and Microsoft has won the war
  • re: clarification

    hi David and Sarah,

    you both have valid points -- of course Novell needs to test and support with Windows as well as Linux.

    However I am only following up on the public comments of your own management. Obviously I don't have as much insight into Novell as you do.

    From my article:

    "Ron Hovsepian, Novell
  • re: passionately evangelising

    hi there,

    what phrase would you have used to describe Novell's enthusiasm for Linux on both the desktop and the server? ;)

    Renai LeMay
  • ZDNet's tabloid-style spin

    The problem is ZDNet's article implies Novell's internal Linux migration is some sort of failure, and that implication is false.

    Unfortunately this type of sensationalism is not that rare at

    You should have been more even handed, instead of sensationalising the story to make it seem like a big story, when it really isn't.

    As several people have already said, any company can't be pure 'eat-your-own-dogfood' and support its customers' multi-vendor environments.
  • not exactly true

    every production server at Microsoft runs Windows, database is SQL, messaging is Exchange. The only apps they are running Siebel, SAP etc are still sitting on a Windows OS and MS database.

    Yes isolated labs exist with other OS's and kit but not in production supporting 120,000+ users