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BrainShare always seems to pack a month's worth of sensory overclocking into a single supersaturated week, and the 2007 conference did not disappoint. More than 5,000 Novell customers, partners, analysts, media observers and open source community members from 83 countries stretched their attention spans to the napping point trying to digest 300+ business and technical sessions, 30 advanced training sessions, 60+ PartnerNet exhibits and 75+ tech lab demonstrations. After hours we renewed old acquaintances at the opening reception, forged new connections at the Sponsor Bowl, and partied down with the Goo Goo Dolls.

So if there are blank spots in some of your conference recollections, it's perfectly understandable. Fortunately your Connection correspondents have compiled a subjective survey of strategic highlights.

> Ron Hovsepian: The Strategy Chalk Talk
A major question mark in every mind was the Novell-Microsoft partnership announced in November and the subject of some controversy since. How would it affect Novell product strategy, and the firm's relationship with the community?

Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian tackled the issue head on, with an opening keynote talk that located the partnership's business drivers and objectives squarely in a context of market trends and urgent customer requirements. Ron noted three broad technology trends that are affecting a wide range of customer investment decisions:

  • Virtualization, because it lets customers easily leverage new generations of higher-performance hardware technologies to lower costs without rewriting their applications.
  • Simplification, because reducing complexity in their IT environments through open, standards-based interoperability is a basic necessity for customers who are increasingly recognizing that mixed operating environments are a long-term fact of life.
  • Commoditization, because price pressure on technology suppliers lets customers put more computing power to work in their businesses.

All three trends constitute opportunities for Novell, Ron asserted, providing the company addresses them with an effective strategy for delivering customer value by aggressively reducing costs and complexity while mitigating operational and regulatory risk.

 

> A Two-Pronged Strategy
In fact, Novell management has designed exactly such a strategy, a two-pronged plan that hinges on two critical sets of deliverables: (1) enterprise-wide Linux, and (2) enterprise management services. Enterprise-wide Linux lets you reduce IT costs by deploying a single operating system code base across mainframes, servers, desktops and notebooks, thin clients and point of sale systems. It also lets you support them all with a single skill set. Linux provides you a versatile and powerful platform for growth that frees up human and capital resources for more productive application to core business innovation.

Enterprise management services are essential, because for most organizations, a heterogeneous environment is now a fact of life. "Most IT shops have two targeted development footprints," Ron explained. "One of them is a .NET Windows footprint, and the other is a J2EE open source footprint. Within that J2EE stack, we need to differentiate the Novell services that let you run your businesses in an open source manner, on a services-oriented architecture, in a much stronger manner."

But Novell must also deliver a single set of tools to manage every critical customer asset, regardless of which platform it's built on. "We are very clearly focused on that mixed source environment, both on the J2EE open source piece and on the Windows piece," Ron said. "Integration is going to be critical; interoperability is going to be critical."

Within the integration market space, Novell will not compete head-to-head with the large players already providing full framework solutions. "We're going to be a component provider within that market. We're not seeking to get that entire stack. We'll work with others so our customers have choices, but we're not going to try to be all things to all people."

Specifically, Novell is focusing its efforts on three management service markets where its core technologies offer significant opportunities to simplify, secure and take costs out of the environment:

  • Identity and Security Management
  • Systems and Resource Management
  • Workgroup and Collaboration

> Opening the Ecosystem to Microsoft
The management team also realized that a strategy based on interoperation required an historic change in the Novell business model—direct collaboration with Microsoft.

"As the CEO of this corporation, I'll tell you this was done for one reason and one reason only," Ron stated. "To drive customer value. To drive interoperability and to make life easier for our customers. Together with Microsoft, we've delivered a technical roadmap focused on interoperability in four areas—virtualization, standardsbased systems management, directory and identity, and office document translation.

"None of this means that we don't want our customers to build out their environments on that open source J2EE footprint. We absolutely do. But when we're done having that fight in the customer's office, we're going to get together with Microsoft to deliver the compute footprint that you want and need."

> Microsoft Shares the BrainShare Stage
Conference participants got a deeper view into the Novell-Microsoft partnership via a conversation between Novell Executive Vice President and CTO Jeff Jaffe, and Craig Mundie, Microsoft chief research and strategy officer. Moderator John Dragoon (Novell CMO) led the pair through an exploration of each company's motivations, expectations, market assessments and objectives. What follows are key excerpts from the resulting exchange.

Question: Customers are wrestling with the appeal of openness, flexibility and freedom of choice on one hand, and security, stability and high quality on the other. How do we help them resolve that?

Jeff: "Look at the history of operating systems: we've gone from 50 operating environments down to two—Linux and Windows. Windows has focused on deep integration, Linux on openness. Novell is dedicated to combining the openness of Linux with the tight integration that Microsoft is famous for. We want to take the innovation of Linux and make it enterprise-ready, with all the security, quality and scalability that enterprise applications require. We want to give them the best of both worlds.

"But there's one more thing customers want, and that's interoperability. With the industry consolidating on two platforms, Novell is leading the way by making it easier, less expensive and more secure to operate a mixed environment.

Craig: "It's become clear to Microsoft that our customers are going to have mixed environments, and those customers have been pushing on Microsoft to help solve the interoperability question. But they also want continued innovation—not just around features and capabilities, but also around costs, security and manageability. The industry as a whole is behind where the customers want us to be relative to our ability to reduce costs. Going forward it will be increasingly important to allow this mix-and-match environment, and Microsoft is fully committed to supporting that."

Question: What does interoperability mean to the customer?

Craig: "Many customers rank interoperability right up with security and reliability in managing the health of their overall IT environment. Especially in terms of controlling costs, and the ability to have this coexistence—not as two complete islands with very skinny interconnections, but in a more robust interoperation in a production sense—is where the pressure is coming from."

"At the end of the day, Microsoft is going to push for Windows and we're going to push for Linux. We agree to disagree. But we agree on getting interoperability between our platforms."

"Interoperability gives us performance, efficiency, cost reduction, and it's something Novell has been working on for a long time. We aspire to be the best manager of Vista desktops. That's what interoperability means to us. We're focused on interoperability from many perspectives, but the customers are demanding more. That's what brings us to sit down with Microsoft."

—Jeff

Question: What changes are coming in the data center?

Jeff: "Platform consolidation and virtualization, which will have many benefits, including performance, isolation, a smaller footprint, higher availability, and the ability to run diverse workloads on a single physical platform. We anticipate Linux as the universal host, which will mean supporting virtualized NetWare, Linux and Windows workloads on Linux. That will make management increasingly important. We'll need to pull physical and virtual resource management together to make the environment productive."

Craig: "It is absolutely clear that we're going to have a heterogeneous environment in the data center, and interoperation will be absolutely necessary. Users will have a choice. We're going to have to give these two environments a much more natural operational coexistence than they have had before.

"And the data center is going to be dynamic. The next release of Windows will have virtualization built in, and we need to be able to host these two environments in a common hardware framework."

Question: We're four months into this: what's been achieved so far, and what are the benefits for our customers?

Craig: "It was very clear to us that this was something our customers wanted. They came to us and asked for this. They had big investments in the Microsoft environment, and they wanted to make bigger investments in the open source environment, but there were two problems overhanging those decisions.

"One was the need for something more than just protocol liaison between these islands. Our customers wanted tighter integration that would allow true cost reductions. We needed to do more for them to support that. There was also an issue with intellectual property assurance. Customers wanted some comfort that there was a real partnership here. If they bought something from one of us they didn't want to discover later that we were fighting over it. So we went ahead and dealt with both issues in the deal we did with Novell."

—Craig

"We've had tremendous feedback from some of the largest enterprises in the world. They want to have this sort of complex environment, and they want us to help them make it more manageable. And that's what we've done."

Jeff: "Our corporate strategy begins with open source. That's the innovation engine of the industry, and everything we do starts with that. As we take Linux deeper into the enterprise, data center managers are telling us 'Novell is important, but so is Windows. These are the two platforms of the future and you guys have to work together on interoperability and virtualization.'

"So we're working together on protocols, APIs and formats. But then our own core business strategy is Linux as the universal host. Microsoft wants the same thing, but neither of us can get there without collaborating with the other. That's what brings us together."

> BrainShare Product Announcements
Workgroup and Collaboration

  • Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 public beta testing will begin in early May. New features include built-in Xen virtualization in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, virtualized NetWare, Dynamic Storage Technology, Domain Services for Windows and 64-bit hardware support. Details +
  • Novell Teaming + Conferencing, two new additions to the Novell Open Workgroup Suite will be available in Q3 2007. These solutions provide teams with online collaboration spaces, content creation and management, discussion, calendaring, messaging and conferencing. Details +
Identity and Security Management
  • Novell Identity Manager 3.5, a new version of the award-winning user-provisioning and identity management solution is scheduled to release in May. New features include integration with Novell® Sentinel™ event monitoring, providing advanced security and compliance management. Details +
  • Novell® Sentinel™ version 6.0 is scheduled for May 2007. Enhancements to the award-winning security information and event management solution include improved incident management and response capabilities, a new correlation framework, streamlined event management, new language and platform support, and integration with Novell Identity Manager 3.5. Details +
Systems and Resource Management
  • Novell ZENworks Configuration Management, introduced at CeBit 2007, is a new desktop management solution that simplifies Windows system management in mixed Microsoft and Novell environments. Features include native integration with Microsoft Active Directory and Novell eDirectory for real-time, identity-based management and service delivery. Details +
  • Novell ZENworks 7.2 Linux Management delivers policy-based, full lifecycle system management with support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise 10. It's available now. Details +
Open Platform Solutions
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Service Pack 1 is now in public beta. It includes both server and desktop packages, and includes significant improvements in virtualization, high-performance computing, desktop usability, security, interoperability and system management. Details +
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Thin Client was introduced for availability later this year. The solution includes SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop and an image-creation toolkit that Channel partners will use to provide finished customer solutions. Details +

See All the BrainShare Demos Online!

Missed a product demo you really wanted to see? Never fear, all the general session keynotes and product demos are available as Web casts online. To find a particular topic just follow this general session agenda:

Monday
  • Ron Hovsepian Keynote
  • Novell Microsoft Partnership Panel Discussion
  • Novell Open Enterprise Server 2
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10
Wednesday
  • Teaming & Collaboration
  • Novell Identity Manager 3.5
  • Sentinel 6 from Novell
  • Novell ZENworks Configuration Management
  • Novell ZENworks Orchestrator
Friday
  • New SUSE Technologies
  • Identity Management
  • Novell GroupWise
  • Data Center Technologies
  • 10 Custom Painted Laptops

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