You'll be back, says Novell

Novell claims that the first half of next year will see companies that deserted it in the nineties return as a direct result of its recent acquisition of SuSE Linux.

Novell claims that the first half of next year will see companies that deserted it in the nineties return as a direct result of its recent acquisition of SuSE Linux.

Novell's U.K. sales director Ben Bulpett said in an interview on Monday that U.K. companies are showing renewed interest in the company and see it as real alternative to Microsoft due to the combination of network management tools and SuSE Linux it can now offer.

"I always said Novell could be a cool company again. There's a real feeling in the office at the moment that sometime in the future we'll be able to look back and say 'I was with Novell when everything changed after we acquired SuSE'," he said.

So far the majority of companies that Novell has put forward as evidence of the momentum behind Linux in the U.K. have been existing Novell customers such as the RSPCA.

But in the days following the SuSE acquisition, the company received several phone calls from U.K. companies interested in what solutions Novell could offer in the light of the deal, and the previous acquisition of Linux management tool company Ximian, said Bulpett.

He said he should be in a position early next year to announce the names of companies that have swapped some or all of their Microsoft Windows server software for a combination of SuSE Linux and Novell management tools.

"The public sector is fairly conservative in this country so it's pretty likely that in the next six months, a large corporate will be first to take the plunge and when it does others will follow suit. If I was a betting man then I'd say it would be a financial services company," he said.

Bulpett also speculated about the future of Red Hat following Novell's acquisition of SuSE. "I have heard all sorts of rumours around Red Hat including that Microsoft might be in the market to buy them but I'm sure the U.S. Department of Justice might have something to say on that. Sun sounds like a better fit to me," he added.

The combination of Linux, add-on management products and Novell's support and training services should offer corporate customers a viable alternative to products that are based on Microsoft's Windows operating system, according to analysts.

"Novell has a complete stack of software, which will make organisations very comfortable getting the same support they expect from proprietary products, even though it's open source from top to bottom," said Dan Kuznetsky, an analyst at IDC.

But even with the string of acquisitions and a complete Linux product set, the company still needs to prove that it has developed a profitable business model and made the internal changes necessary to thrive in the Linux marketplace, said Tom Rhinelander, an analyst at research firm New Rowley Group.

"Novell is delving deeper into the Linux business, which is hard to make money in, and Novell is having a hard time doing that already," Rhinelander said. "They still have to make the mental transition from the 'NetWare company' to a company that is Linux-first with services."

CNET New.com's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report. ZDNet U.K.’s Andrew Donoghue reported from London.