RealTime IT News

Novell Abandons Hula

Novell said it would be able to invest further in the open source community as a result of its recent deal with Microsoft. Apparently investing in its own open source mail server Hula Project isn't going to be one such investment.

The company said it is pulling its paid developers from the Hula Project, which it founded in February 2005. The Hula Project is an open source mail and collaboration server, with its initial foundation based on 200,000 lines of open sourced code from Novell's NetMail product.

"The quick synopsis is, Novell no longer has anyone working full time on Hula," Novell staffer Peter Teichman wrote in a mailing list posting. "As a team we have spent some time looking at where the Hula project is and the opportunities in the market and in the end we had to conclude that we couldn't justify investing at the same level in Hula going forward.

"So those of us who have been developing Hula full time will be moving on to other roles and to other parts of the company."

Teichman's comments are in stark contrast to the bright future and high hopes that Novell had for Hula only 18 months ago.

In a 2005 interview with internetnews.com David Patrick, who at the time was the vice president and general manager of the company's Linux, Open Source Platforms and Services Group, said that the goal with Hula was to create a new-generation product and let it blossom.

"We will probably not have commercial products until early next year based on the Hula engine," Patrick said in 2005. "But ultimately we will sell a commercial solution around Hula. Today the use-case model is quite different than GroupWise, which is high-end enterprise collaboration."

Patrick no longer works at Novell and no such commercial solution around Hula ever materialized. Instead, other open source options from other vendors such as the Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) have emerged to challenge the proprietary stalwarts.

Though Novell will no longer be supporting Hula with paid developers, Teichman noted in his posting that Novell does still care about Hula and is interested in working on it going forward.

"But I think we're going to need someone from the community to take a leadership role and continue to move things forward with direction," Teichman wrote.

Early indications are that it's a challenge that the community is willing to undertake.

"I think this isn't a bad sign for Hula, because it can be a chance," Hula community member Sebastian Döll wrote in a mailing list posting. "Now, the community should decide where Hula should go."

A strong voice within the Hula community is developer Alex Hudson whose name was floated by a number of Hula mailing list posters as a candidate to lead Hula in a Novell-less era.

In a posting of his own, Hudson admitted that more people could have been involved in the Hula project previously and that there were some issues with non-Novell employees being able to actually contribute.

"In a way, only time will tell: will enough people work on Hula to take it where it needs to go?" Hudson wrote. "Personally, I think enough will - there isn't a massive amount of work needed (though it is still a lot of work), there are a number of people who know the code, and new people keep dropping into IRC to talk about the code.

"A lot of people out there want to see Hula succeed, and a good proportion of them - I hope - are willing to make efforts to see that happen."