Open-source software is picking up steam in European businesses, and Novell is following suit -- perhaps to the extent of releasing some of its own products under open-source licences, according to Novell EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) president Richard Seibt.
Seibt, formerly the head of Novell's SuSE Linux business unit and chief executive of SuSE before its takeover by Novell, took over as head of Novell's European operations earlier this month. In an interview on Thursday he said the biggest demand from customers is coming from server consolidation, standardisation on the Linux operating system and security -- specifically identity management (see Insight's Authentication Toolkit for more information on identity management).
"Those are the three most important areas for customers at the moment," said Seibt. "Fortunately, Novell has a portfolio of products for ensuring delivery of value on these issues."
Seibt maintains that his appointment as EMEA president shows the importance of Linux to Novell's strategy. Novell, along with competitors such as IBM and HP, sees Linux as a way of allowing customers to standardise on a single low-cost, non-proprietary platform, migrating from a hodge-podge of systems to Linux-based clusters or mainframes. "You need one operating system to do that. What we have is an important initiative to help customers to add Linux to their infrastructure," Seibt told ZDNet UK.
European companies tend to adopt new technology early, but to test it thoroughly before rolling it out on a large scale, and Seibt said that Linux is now moving past the testing phase into the investment phase.
"Linux started out on servers. Now companies are running mission-critical applications on Linux, using 64-bit hardware and software architectures," said Seibt. The commoditisation of the operating system is key for reducing business' costs, he said, with companies differentiating themselves by the services built upon the operating system.
Novell may choose to move a step further and switch some of its currently proprietary products to open-source licences in order to take advantage of the open-source development model, Seibt said. "The open-source community has an advantage in developing software. There are a lot of people out there, collective inventors I sometimes call them, many eyes helping to improve the code. It improves software development speed, which is an advantage for our customers."
Ultimately, SuSE Linux will form an integrated package with software from another recent Novell acquisition, Ximian. Novell is planning to bundle Ximian's user-friendly desktop and software-management tools with SuSE Linux to create a standardised desktop that will be simpler for enterprises to deploy and manage, Seibt said: "That's what the customer wants, one desktop."
Seibt downplayed the effect this philosophy would have on KDE, the main alternative to Gnome, upon which Ximian Desktop is based. "The choice between KDE and Gnome is more a question of what kind of development platform you use," he said. "Many large companies are using one, others use the other. We will continue to support both, there is a market for both. That is our current view."
In the past SuSE has focused its development efforts on KDE, for example adding tweaks to the interface in a project backed by the German federal government.