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 An Interview with Matt Asay of Novell

OrangeCrate is pleased to announce an interview with Matt Asay, Director of Novell's Linux Business Office. Matt was kind enough to answer my questions about Novell's future and its directions in regard to the GNU GPL. After this interview, I am thoroughly convinced that Novell just "gets it" and is serious about being a strong leader in the community.

 (Submitted by Chuck Talk Mon May 31, 2004 )

  Chuck Talk: Novell recently announced the release of the Ximian (TM) Connector under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Do you foresee more strategic releases of Novell Software components under the GPL?

Matt Asay: Absolutely. People tend to describe the GPL as highly restrictive. It is, in a sense, but it's also liberating, and a great competitive tool. We are constantly reviewing existing and potential products to open source, and the GPL tends to be the default license (we choose).

Chuck Talk: Is Novell working with the Open Source Initiative to release more software under open-source licensing?

Matt Asay: Given the confidential nature of what we're working on, we tend to keep it close to the vest. We run everything through our own Open Source Review Board, and use some outside counsel/consultants to help ensure we're not overlooking anything. But we haven't worked through the OSI, generally speaking.

Chuck Talk: With the acquisition of SUSE LINUX, Novell has obtained a powerful set of technologies that will expand its already strong presence in the server market. What plans does Novell have for combining the best of the NetWare kernel with the Linux Kernel, and will any of that technology be released under the GNU General Public License?

Matt Asay: Almost certainly to the latter question. As open source has matured, it has become evident that GPL'ing something is not tantamount to abandoning all hope of ever profiting from it again. Customers tend to buy from the core developers of a given project. So, we can GPL something and still expect a significant portion of the buying public to come to us to make that purchase, even though they can readily download GPL'd code for free.

The important thing is that we offer customers the ability to go elsewhere if they choose - IT buyers want choice. They're tired of lock-in.

So, we will continue to use the GPL to encourage choice for our customers, providing value to them and forcing us to be on top of our game. Everyone wins. As to the first question, we've been pretty public on our plans to integrate NetWare with SUSE Linux. In fact, the two kernels ship together, with the same services running on top of them. Customers can choose either one, according to their needs. And we're supporting existing NetWare customers that want to migrate to Linux. It's all about choice.

Chuck Talk: As SUSE Linux has given Novell a very stable desktop system in addition to the
Enterprise server and applications, will Novell pursue any OEM relationships for Workstation or Desktop Computers?

Matt Asay: Our HP partnership is clear evidence that this is underway. Watch for much, much more of the same. We plan to be the market maker in desktop Linux.

Chuck Talk: What do you foresee will be the biggest challenge for Linux> in corporate adoption over the next year or so?

Matt Asay: Support is still an issue, but as people become acquainted with Linux, they lose the support fear. Having big companies like Novell behind it helps, as well. Microsoft will likely slow the growth of Linux somewhat by cutting deep into its profit margins to try to beat Linux on price, but that will be a temporary road bump.

Of more concern is whether they succeed with Longhorn, which strikes me as primarily designed to kill Linux. I think they'll find, however, that the ultimate lock-in they're seeking to foist on the market will prove their undoing.

IT buyers are flocking to Linux because of the open platform - the choice - it provides them. The
opportunity costs inherent in locking your IT into Microsoft are enormous. When people see what they're signing up for in Longhorn, I predict a mass exodus to open source/Linux, just as their Licensing 6.0 scheme backfired on them, driving people to explore alternatives.

Chuck Talk: Will Novell pursue relationships with other Desktop Linux Consortium members to bridge the gap between Windows and Linux, such as CodeWeavers or NeTraverse?

Matt Asay: We have in place partnerships that run the gamut of the open source desktop, and expect to develop many more. I can't provide more information at this point.

Chuck Talk: What one key initiative of Novell's would you like to see gain the most traction over the next year?

Matt Asay: Our ability to secure identity across networks. Novell, perhaps more than any other vendor, understands security and identity. We have the ability to help corporations provision and control Linux desktops in a way that no other company can. I want Novell to come to be identified with our expertise in this area.

Chuck Talk: Finally, is there anything you would like to say to my audience?

Matt Asay: More than anything else, it's this: Try it (the Linux desktop) out. It works. It's more than simply good enough. Does it have shortcomings? Sure. But so does the Windows platform (like a virus for every minute of the day and grain of sand on the beach). And, unlike the Windows desktop, there's all kind of room to innovate and improve on the Linux desktop, and a global development team (rather than one, monolithic pool in Redmond with no incentive to provide anything that does not maintain their margins) ready to do it.

Chuck Talk: Thanks Matt, I do appreciate it. I want to thank Novell for continuing to deliver on the promise of Open Source and for contributing back to the community. Working together in partnership, I do believe we will see a better future for the Linux desktop and server markets.

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