Novell aims SLES 11 at Sun and Red Hat

The Suse owner claims that migrations from Unix are still a massive opportunity for growing its Linux business
Written by Peter Judge, Contributor

The next version of Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server will focus on migration technologies and virtualisation, in order to entice users from Unix and take market share from Red Hat, according to a roadmap announced at the company's BrainShare meeting in Salt Lake City.

Version 11 of SLES is not due until the middle of 2009, but Novell has announced six main "themes" for the release, including mission critical servers, virtualisation, interoperability, green IT, Unix migration and desktop Linux.

"It's not traditional for a manufacturer to announce themes like this," said Justin Steinman, director of Linux marketing at Novell, "but this is open source — we're aiming for a new level of transparency."

The new version will be available on appliances and embedded in devices, said Steinman, in a bid to make Linux more usable by smaller businesses.

Unix migration in particular is "huge growth opportunity," said Steinman, who expects Suse Linux to be adopted on many of the 700,000 servers currently running the Sun Solaris version of Unix. "That's a very rich environment for migration to Linux," he said. "Sun would like to see you staying on Solaris, but we're aggressively targetting Solaris as a primary migration opportunity. It is 25 percent of the cost, so why wouldn't you move to Linux?"

Although most of Novell's Linux business comes from servers, the company expects desktops to grow — and is doing deals to pre-load its software on PCs from Dell and Lenovo, said Steinman: "We have several flagship customers with 20,000 to 30,000 desktops based on Linux," he said.

Much of Novell's success in Linux is down to its deal with Microsoft, Steinman said. "The reality is that the majority of our customers have Windows... If they are making a Linux distribution choice, they will pick the one that has been optimised for Windows."

Novell has a joint development lab with Microsoft, and much of its code is produced side by side with Microsoft engineers, Steinman said — though emphasising that Novell coders do not see Microsoft source code.

This and other factors will help Novell continue to gain in market share on the enterprise leader Red Hat, he said. "Novell picked up eight points of market share on Red Hat in fiscal 2007. We intend to pick up a lot of market share this year too."

BrainShare also saw an expanded partnership between Novell and SAP, especially focussed around Intel-based systems for the SME market, said Steinman. "This announcement makes it clear that Suse is SAP's Linux platform," he said.

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