Novell's open source migration progressing slowly

Two years after first mooting a migration to Linux and, 60 percent of Novell's staff can still boot Windows on their work machines

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 UK sister site CNET on Friday 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."