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Jan/Feb 2004    by Todd Swensen

Open Source:
Disruptive Technology for the 21st

In 1851, a physician named John Gorrie designed a mechanical air-cooling device for treating yellow fever. His invention eventually caused the downfall of a $1 billion-dollar-a-year ice refrigeration industry. In 1894, when Guglielmo Marconi discovered a way to transmit sounds through the air, Italian government officials rejected his offer for first rights because they thought the technology was worthless (the more established telephone system seemed much more practical at the time). These two events highlight a common historical pattern that many historians refer to as disruptive technology. There are hundreds of similar examples that show the effects of disruptive technologies in our world—and reveal the consequences for businesses or industries that choose to ignore them.

In hindsight, disruptive technologies are relatively easy to identify because they share certain things in common. They are almost always developed outside the established system. The automobile probably could not have been invented by a horse-drawn carriage manufacturer because established businesses tend to refine the existing technology that made them successful. As a result, disruptive technologies tend to create discomfort and cause serious (or fatal) problems for organizations and industries that are too stubborn, inflexible or complacent to adapt. Over the past 75 years, entertainment executives have resisted nearly every major technological advance—from consumer video recording technology to online music—because they threaten established business models and traditional revenue streams. But despite this inevitable resistance, disruptive technology always leads to remarkable opportunities for companies that are nimble and agile enough to take advantage of them.

Our industry has certainly seen its share of disruptive technologies over the years. The invention of the personal computer (along with the subsequent move to client/server computing) and the development of the Internet are perhaps two of the most obvious examples. Now, analysts and industry experts agree that the next disruptive technology for the IT industry has arrived, and it revolves around the open source movement that has been gaining momentum for the last couple of years. Open source shows all the classic characteristics of a disruptive technology. It is being developed and led by people outside the IT establishment who are using an open, democratic model that many insiders find alarming. It has certainly caused a great deal of furor and discomfort among established IT vendors. And it offers a fundamentally different approach for solving business problems. If nothing else, the dramatically lower cost of open source solutions strikes an undeniable chord in these days of strained and shrinking budgets. Open source technology also opens doors to new levels of choice and flexibility that allow organizations to provide more efficient services and respond more quickly to customers. And the open source model, combined with open standards, makes it easy to add new services and capabilities to aging legacy systems—rather than tearing them out and replacing them.

The potential for open source should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention. But like any disruptive technology, open source must first overcome some initial barriers and potential drawbacks. After all, the automobile was a mere curiosity for the rich until Henry Ford turned that disruptive technology into a practical replacement for horse-drawn transportation. Most of the current concerns about open source are closely tied to the same characteristics that make it appealing in the first place. For most businesses, sacrificing security and reliability to gain choice and agility will never be an option. Before open source can become a viable choice, it must prove it can deliver the same levels of service, stability and support as proprietary solutions— complete with an effective training and certification ecosystem, viable consulting options, and proven enterprise-ready services and applications. In essence, the decision to adopt open source really comes down to credibility and trust—two components that Novell brings with its 20-year history.

Proven Novell Services for Linux
For the past year, Novell has been working hard to remove limitations and make the full potential of open source technology available to businesses. This focus on open source solutions is a logical extension of the Novell vision for one Net—a world where organizations have complete freedom to leverage their current assets, including people, processes and systems, to increase productivity and improve service by connecting the right people to the right information at the right time. one Net— like the open source movement—is about choice. And Novell is taking bold, decisive steps to apply the full power of open source technology to the needs of all kinds of organizations.

"I am looking for a lot of
men who have infinite
capacity to not know what
can't be done."
-Henry Ford

Novell first began moving toward open source early in 2000 with the announcement of a new version of eDirectory and a new messaging solution for the Linux platform. In April of 2003, Novell started taking more rapid and aggressive steps toward open source solutions by announcing it would make a broad range of its trusted, world-renowned network services available on Linux through a new product called Novell Nterprise Linux Services. Released in December 2003, this offering gives businesses the choice of running Novell services on the NetWare platform, the Linux platform or both. These services include Novell eDirectory, the world's most trusted and capable full-service directory and identity manager; iFolder personal file management; iPrint standards-based printing; e-mail and collaboration services; and even a browser-based console for administering Novell Nterprise Linux services. All these services are fully supported on the Linux platform, and all offer the same proven levels of security, sophistication and reliability that you've come to expect from Novell.

Business-ready Linux for Every Layer of Your Business
In August of 2003, Novell further enhanced its ability to deliver business-ready solutions for Linux by purchasing Ximian, a leading provider of Linux management, desktop productivity and Windows interoperability products. This expanded Novell's Linux offerings to include a resource management and software distribution solution, a complete Linux desktop environment that includes a suite of productivity applications, and an open source initiative for making the Microsoft .NET development framework available on Linux.

For more information about Novell on Linux

In early November, Novell announced plans to acquire SUSE Linux, one of the world's leading enterprise Linux companies. As Novell adds this piece to the open source Linux picture, it can offer complete Linux deployments for every layer of the IT infrastructure—from the desktop to the server. And the expertise, technology and people Novell has gained through these acquisitions establish the company as a world-class leader in the open source arena. Businesses can now turn to Novell for an open source Linux solution that includes a proven, reliable, enterprise-ready SUSE Linux server deployment, a full-service directory and identity management framework that runs on Linux and synchronizes directory data across different systems and applications, a Linux-based GroupWise collaboration system, a complete Linux server and desktop management framework, a Linux desktop environment, and a long list of other important services and capabilities—all fully supported by a proven technology leader. This approach combines pure open source technology with commercially licensed products, technical support, education, certification and consulting to provide solutions that are both flexible and mature enough to meet new business needs at a much lower cost.

Total Flexibility, Complete Confidence
So what do these aggressive moves toward open standards and open source mean for your organization? Novell is removing the traditional barriers that have limited the use of open source in enterprise settings—and put all the benefits and advantages of this latest disruptive technology to work for your business. Novell offers the only complete, proven Linux solutions supported by all the resources, experience and credibility of a $1 billion software company with a 20-year history—along with proven levels of support, training, education and consulting. That means you can enjoy all the cost savings, choice, flexibility and agility of open source solutions without sacrificing security, reliability or support.

Figure 1

Open source is the latest disruptive technology affecting our industry, and software vendors really have two choices for dealing with the growing open source movement. They can ignore it, resist it, and run the risk of becoming the modern equivalent of the ice refrigeration industry; or they can follow Henry Ford's example and embrace the technology, and work to improve and refine it. Novell is committed to following the latter path—by working to transform open source from an interesting idea into a powerful, practical force that provides you with more choice, flexibility and lower-cost options for creating a new breed of open business solutions. 

Novell's March Toward Open Source
Since Novell outlined its vision for one Net early in 2000, the company has been moving steadily toward open source. Here are some of the major milestones:

February 8, 2000
March 2000
September 27, 2000
May 8, 2001
April 19, 2001
April 14, 2003
April 14, 2003
May 13, 2003
June 24, 2003
June 24, 2003

August 4, 2003
August 4, 2003
November 4, 2003
Novell announces one Net vision
Novell announces eDirectory and messaging solutions for Linux
Red Hat selects eDirectory deployment
Novell offers eDirectory free to developers
Novell announces cross-platform desktop support (NFAP)
Novell announces plans to offer NetWare services on Linux
Novell announces a GroupWise client for Linux
Novell announces exteNd Application Server 5 for Linux
Novell announces Novell Nterprise Linux Services
IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard agree to offer Novell Nterprise Linux Services
Novell announces the acquisition of Ximian
Novell announces SUSE support agreement
Novell announces plans to acquire SUSE
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