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RealTime IT News

IT Execs Say Added Linux Support = Peace of Mind

By Jacqueline Emigh

SALT LAKE CITY -- The newly expanded relationship between Novell and HP will give customers "the support you need to make the transition to Linux with peace of mind," said Novell Chairman and CEO Jack Messman on Wednesday.

Attendees interviewed at Novell's BrainShare show agreed that enterprise decision-makers will feel more confident about Linux server implementations, due to increased support rolled out by HP and IBM this week's show.

At the same time, customers are less convinced that Linux will make its way to large numbers of North American desktops any time soon.

The Novell/HP deal unveiled at BrainShare moves beyond earlier pacts to run SuSE Linux Professional on HP ProLiant and Integrity servers. HP will now be pre-testing, selling and supporting SuSE Linux Enterprise on Intel-based hardware ranging from servers to the desktop, according to Martin Fink, vice president of Linux for HP.

"We've taken that burden (of support) off your shoulders on your behalf," Fink said, during a keynote on Wednesday.

Novell's Linux customers can now choose among support packages from Novell Consulting, HP and IBM, said Chris Stone, vice chairman, Office of the CEO, for Novell.

"The fact that we have support relationships will bring a powerful message to customers," Stone said. Earlier this week, IBM extended a deal to support Linux on its entire eServer line, previously forged with SuSE Linux, to Novell, SuSE Linux's new owner.

Most customers interviewed at the show got the message loud and clear. "HP and IBM are the big dogs on the block. Their support definitely gives more weight and credibility to Linux," said Gary Martinsen, who works in information systems support for the State of Wyoming.

Martinsen wants to start replacing the state's NetWare and Microsoft Windows servers with Linux. He came to BrainShare this year to gather more information. Now, he's hoping that the announcements will help him sway state decision-makers.

Gary Westwood, a business manager at Associated Networks Solutions (ANS) PLC in Manchester, United Kingdom, found the announcements a bit incongruous. Still he thinks extensive support from HP and IBM might help to point some of his consultancy's customers in a Linux direction.

"Even though the involvement of these big companies seems to go against the grain of what Linux really is, customers feel that they need to have something to fall back on in terms of support," Westwood said.

Brady C. Johnson, a PC LAN analyst in Wells Fargo's Business Banking Group, said that his particular division of Wells Fargo still uses NetWare servers. "But decision-makers have been looking at Linux kind of casually, anyway, and these announcements have definitely sparked their interest."

Some show-goers, of course, had already starting implementing Linux anyway, long before HP's and IBM's announcements.

"I work in IT for a major bank. We're already using Linux for some applications, and we're definitely going to move Linux into additional areas over the next two years," said Randy Dees, who preferred not to name his employer, because he "can't speak for the bank."

"Neither HP nor IBM has a choice, really. They can either support Linux, or I'll walk somewhere else and get the support I want. Linux exists in corporations, anyway, although it is not being properly managed," Dees added.

Server-side Linux is already stepping beyond early adopter industries such as banks and telecommunications, noted Ephrain H. Rovira, worldwide director of marketing for HP, during an interview. "I've been talking with companies in the airlines industry, for example, who now want to start doing Linux, too."

Unlike IBM, HP will now be supporting Novell's SuSE Linux on desktops, too. HP and Novell officials conceded that growth of Linux is much stronger on the server than the desktop. HP is already selling 130,000 Linux clients per quarter, although most of these sales have been to companies in the Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe, Fink said.

HP, however, already has Linux customers for its managed desktop practice, according to Rovira.

Novell has already spoken with some North American customers who are looking for more of a desktop type of deployment, said Stone, who gave call center implementations as one example.

Call center deployments don't really require a Linux desktop client, pointed out Rovira. "Usually, all (end users) really need are a Web browser and e-mail."

Some customers, too, think the time could be approaching for browser-based implementations in enterprises. This is one possible option that Martinsen has been mulling over for the State of Wyoming.

"We could bring all our systems together into just one place: Linux. We could leverage the Web, all the way down to the desktop," Martinsen said.

Wes Peltzer, chief network consultant at Morrison-Maierle Systems, a consultancy in Billings, Mon., said he also foresees interest among some of his customers in end-to-end Linux implementations, using browsers to access applications running on Linux servers. The company's customers include law firms and banks, for instance.

"A lot of people can't stand Microsoft, between the licensing costs and the Windows patches that are corrupt and never work," he contended.

Meanwhile, some customers are deploying OpenOffice on Windows, to spare themselves Microsoft Office licensing costs. This category includes a government agency in the UK that is one of ANS PLC's customers. "We'll have to wait and see what Linux desktop software might start looking like in the future," said Paul Wheeler, another business manager at ANS.

Also during the BrainShare keynote, Fink said that HP has been working with ISVs such as SAP to help drive greater ability of third-party applications on Linux.

More Linux applications will be another big help in spurring adoption, according to attendees. "Where HP and IBM go, other vendors will follow," predicted the State of Wyoming's Martinsen.