Novell takes VMware tool to school

VMware will sell its 'virtual machine' software, which emulates several computers at once, through Novell training courses. It's just the first step start-up's bid for the educational market.

VMware, a start-up whose software lets a computer run many operating systems simultaneously, has begun a new expansion into the education market and signed its first major customer: Novell.

VMware will sell its program--though at discount rates--to the network of 1,100 businesses authorized to train people in the use of Novell's software products. The company believes as many as 25,000 copies of its software will be used in the Novell deal, with more to come from other educational initiatives.

"We're expanding our channels for academic distribution," said Vice President of Marketing Susan Thomas, adding that the Palo Alto, Calif., company expects to complete a distribution deal soon that will get its products on the shelves of college bookstores. And "we're looking at other companies who are big trainers," she said.

Novell was once one of the giants of the technology landscape, before its NetWare server operating system was swept aside by Microsoft's Windows. Though the company has shifted much of its attention to its eDirectory product, NetWare remains an important part of the computer industry.

VMware's product allows a single Linux or Windows computer to host several operating systems simultaneously. Linux can run within Windows, or vice versa, or several versions of Windows can run side by side, for example, as long as the machine has sufficient memory.

The company points to a few advantages its products have for the training market. In Novell's case, the lures are that it takes less time for instructors to set up computers and that students can run several interacting computers at the same time without actually running several computers. In addition, by shutting down a virtual machine without saving changes, a student can undo damage wreaked by incorrect settings or failed tests.

"Students can do a lot more experimenting, because if they totally mess up their environment, they can just restore it by resetting," Thomas said.

The most complex Novell course requires a student to use four operating systems, said Aaron Osmond, director of business development for Novell's education program. Novell has made VMware-based education kits for four courses and has five more of these Quick Classroom products under development.

VMware can run only on Windows or Linux, but once it's operating, it can be used to run numerous operating systems that work on Intel-compatible chips. Novell's NetWare is not on the official list of systems VMware supports, though it can be run.

"Theoretically, any operating system that runs on (Intel-compatible computers) will run. However, we don't claim official support for an operating system unless we have thoroughly tested it," Thomas said.

Novell isn't worried that NetWare isn't supported, because it runs without trouble.

Dell Computer is among VMware's investors.