More than 6,000 people flocked to Salt Lake City for BrainShare Global 2006 in March, making it the biggest BrainShare ever. During the conference, Novell executives and engineers delivered several keynote addresses to standing-room-only crowds in the Salt Palace Convention Center. They used the opportunity to lay out Novell's strategic course, cite specific customer wins and offer demonstrations of Novell technology in action.
> Jack Messman: An Open Strategy
Novell CEO Jack Messman led off the event by reviewing Novell's progress since the last BrainShare. He pointed to the delivery of Novell Open Enterprise Server, the Codie-Award-winning ZENworks 7, GroupWise 7 and Novell Identity Manager, InfoWorld's Technology of the Year for 2006.
Messman drew applause from the crowd of Novell customers and partners when he reiterated Novell's ongoing commitment to NetWare as well, saying the company would support it at least until 2015.
Messman then outlined Novell's business strategy–software for the open enterprise. Novell wants to become the world's leading provider of enterprise software, including both open source software and proprietary software based on open standards. He explained that the company's goal is to help each of its customers become an open enterprise, which means achieving a flexible, stable, secure IT environment–at a low cost–by adopting the best open source and open-standards-based solutions. It's all about growing business while at the same time reducing costs and expanding choice. He said Novell is uniquely situated to accomplish this because it offers a complete solution stack, from the server, to security and management tools, to the desktop–all based on a mix of proven proprietary and cutting-edge open source software.
Messman emphasized Novell's partners in this endeavor, including relationships with large companies like IBM and Dell as well as hundreds of smaller outfits such as the members of the Novell Market Start program. He announced that five new open source software companies have recently joined Market Start: Alfresco, Black Duck, EnterpriseDB, SpikeSource and Novacoast.
Next, Messman defined Novell's five market solution areas: data center, resource management, workgroup, security and identity and the desktop. He announced new offerings within several of these categories, including new GroupWise mobility solutions. These offerings let users with Blackberries (and hundreds of other kinds of mobile devices) be provisioned over the air for access to GroupWise message and calendar services. He also unveiled the Novell Open Workgroup Suite, the first such suite of its kind for Linux, which includes the Linux version of Open Enterprise Server, GroupWise for Linux, Novell ZENworks Suite, Novell Linux Desktop and OpenOffice–all for a price way below the Microsoft equivalent.
But he noted that research shows that cost is no longer the main reason that enterprises are increasingly choosing open source software.
"Cost is not the primary driver. It's about reliability, stability and performance," he explained. "Cost will always be a factor, but providing a reliable and flexible platform for your enterprise is where Linux is heading. Tomorrow's enterprises will be open enterprises. They will enjoy freedom of choice, something this industry has not had for a long time."
With that, Messman introduced SUSE Linux Enterprise 10, which he called "the platform for the open enterprise," the newest unified code base for all of the Novell server, data center and desktop Linux products. SUSE Linux Enterprise is the result of "blood, sweat and tears" of Novell engineers, Messman said, but not theirs alone; it also grew out of all the open source communities where Novell is a leader. When combined with support, training, consulting and software from Novell and its partners, the SUSE Linux Enterprise platform is evidence Novell is pulling ahead of all other choices, Messman said.
"We've never been in a better position to support your business," he told the crowd in conclusion. "We know we have to continue to earn your business. We're just getting warmed up."
> Ron Hovsepian: Making it Happen in the Real-World
Novell President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Hovsepian focused his presentation on the intense pressure businesses are facing in a global setting to lower costs, improve security, become more flexible and form more productive relationships with other organizations.
The way to get there, Hovsepian said, is to take advantage of open standards and open source. The freedom that building on these standards offers lets an organization focus on business processes more than the technologies that run them, centrally manage those processes and interoperate more securely between departments and between organizations. The end result is fewer cycles expended to get products and services to customers.
As a proof point in the marketplace, Hovsepian announced that Dell has selected ZENworks as its premier Linux management offering. Novell ZENworks 7 for Linux, Dell edition, features specialized functionality for managing Dell PowerEdge servers running either SUSE Linux or Red Hat. (For more information, see Dell Does Linux: ZENworks Linux Management-Dell Edition, p.50.
Hovsepian then presented three videos featuring first-hand accounts from Novell customers. IT managers at Commerce Bank said they rely on Novell technology and consulting for policy-based compliance solutions to help as the bank grows by 50–60 new branches a year and manages more than 12,000 desktops with ZENworks.
Executives at Telecom New Zealand said their company is able to treat its customers like people, not numbers or devices, thanks to Novell identity solutions.
Deutsche Bahn experts said their enterprise has saved 25 percent in maintenance costs and 50 percent in software and hardware costs, thanks to the freedom of choice that comes from standardizing on open source and open standards.
Deutsche Bahn is by no means alone, Hovsepian pointed out, citing an Information Week February 2006 study that reported 65 percent of businesses surveyed are already running Linux on their servers and desktops, and 70 percent of businesses believe open source creates more opportunities for innovation.
"Our open enterprise strategy begins and ends with you," Hovsepian said. "The open enterprise will allow you to solve your business challenges much more quickly and cost effectively, today–you heard it from other customers. It can help you be more efficient, flexible and responsive in the future. When you achieve that, your organization will be in a stronger position in the marketplace."
> Jeff Jaffe: Innovation Gets to Work
Dr. Jeff Jaffe, the new Novell executive vice president and chief technology officer, got the audience cheering when he started his address by proclaiming that Novell is poised to become THE innovation leader in the industry. He devoted his remarks to backing up this claim and explaining exactly how that innovation moves from the lab directly into the products where it benefits Novell users.
Jaffe said that, based on his long leadership experience at prestigious research institutions such as Bell Labs and IBM, he has concluded that the focus of innovation has shifted. No longer is it in a closed laboratory; it has moved from isolated research centers to the free-form collaboration that takes place in the open source community.
Jaffe said Novell is in the perfect position to marshal the creativity of the open source world and deliver it to customers. The key, he explained, is Novell's ability to combine the fluid innovation of open source with the reliable discipline of a structured engineering process.
It starts with Novell's extensive participation in open source projects and initiatives: openSUSE, Mono, Hula, AppArmor, Project Higgins, the Open Document Framework, the Better Desktop Initiative, Eclipse, the Open Invention Network and many others. All of these have helped to move innovative ideas through the company.
What sets Novell apart is its ability to take this raw innovation and give it added structure and strength with the kind of disciplined engineering and structured process management the company has been perfecting for decades. Take the best creativity of open source, Jaffe said, and add to it formal planning, testing, documentation, reviews, metrics, release criteria and so on, and what you get is an innovation engine that delivers breakthrough solutions.
Open source is the catalyst responsible for an explosion of new technology, Jaffe said. There are more than 100,000 open source software projects, fostered by a teeming and growing community (including established hardware and software players).
"Our job at Novell is to marshal all this creative energy and bring it to Novell customers before it goes anywhere else," he said.
Perfect examples, he said, can be found in the new Novell products based on the SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 platform. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop share a common code base that includes some of the best that open source has to offer, including the latest technology for virtualization, integrated systems management, hyperthreading, built-in application security, clustering capability, support for the latest hardware, enterprise-level scalability and more.
"We are infusing the best of the industry into the product line. We innovate, but we also apply this discipline into every single Novell product."
> Nat Friedman: For the Linux Desktop, the Future is Now
No keynote presentation generated more buzz at BrainShare than when Linux Desktop VP Nat Friedman showed off the second part of SUSE Linux Enterprise: the desktop. Friedman and Senior Product Manager Guy Lunardi used the new software to put on a show that drew enthusiastic outbursts from the audience throughout and a standing ovation at the end.
Friedman explained that SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop is tailored specifically for general knowledge workers, a term that refers to typical office workers who spend their time in word processors, spreadsheets, e-mail clients and Web browsers.
He began the tour by showing off the desktop's visually-impressive 3D window effects. Part "eye candy," part highly practical navigation tool, these effects are made possible by Xgl technology, which was developed at Novell. Friedman showed how he could easily zoom between multiple application windows with a key stroke, making it easy to manage even a tall stack of open windows quickly. He could even choose between multiple desktop spaces at a glance by rotating the entire environment like a three-dimensional cube–all the while playing a full-resolution movie. (Watch the online video at novell.com/brainshare/keynotes.html.)
He then went through several handy improvements to the desktop's work environment, such as easy-to-use menus and multiple side-by-side calendars in the Evolution collaboration software.
A major feature in the new desktop is Beagle, which lets you search your entire personal information space at once: entering a search term returns not just file names, but relevant instant messenger conversations, visited Web sites, images, e-mail messages and media files, with the results all neatly organized.
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 is much more multimedia-friendly than previous Linux products, and much better at using plug-and-play devices. Friedman plugged in an iPod to show how easy it is to use the Banshee music player software. Then he took a picture on stage with a digital camera. He hooked the camera up to the computer to show how he could use the F-spot photo manager to save the shot, tag it by date and content, edit it and publish it to the Internet in less than a minute.
Interoperating on a Windows-centric network is a necessity within many organizations, and Friedman showed how quickly he could create a shared Windows folder with a few short clicks, and also browse through directories on a Windows network.
Finally, Friedman showed off functionality that was perhaps less sexy–unless you happen to be a business user. The desktop comes with important daily work tools, such as the Firefox Web browser, the Adobe Acrobat reader, the Macromedia Flash player, and the latest Novell-customized version of the OpenOffice.org 2.0 suite. The free-and-powerful OpenOffice now offers advanced functionality that rivals any proprietary office suite that costs hundreds of dollars. These include pivot tables in spreadsheets, complex macros that work smoothly with Windows, the ability to read and write files in Microsoft Office format and sophisticated presentations with animation effects.
"In the next few months," Friedman told the audience, "a lot of you are going to be asked to 'upgrade' your operating system [to Vista]. You're going to be asked to purchase new hardware to support it. You're going to be asked to retool your backend and all your processes to match your new operating system. And you're going to be given a new user interface, and you'll have to train all your users in this new interface. So as long as you're looking at that, why not consider moving to something open?"
> Other Keynotes
These keynotes are just a small part of what BrainShare participants saw during the week-long conference. Attendees actually filled the Salt Palace for three general sessions, during which they saw several other keynotes and demonstration sessions. You can watch them all online, and download the presentation slides, at novell.com/brainshare/keynotes.html.