Novell's BrainShare conference is not a place where you would expect to find serious references to Microsoft, but as is the norm in the tech world, things change.
On a day when Novell CEO Jack Messman wished to address new announcements like the ZENworks Suite 7 and a partnership with JBoss, reporters asked about a report issued by Boston-based Yankee Group.
The report, released last week by Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio, surveyed 100 existing Novell customers and found that eight out of 10 stated they would migrate from NetWare to Windows by 2006.
Of the remaining 20%, DiDio said nearly 70% would choose to migrate to Red Hat Linux. Microsoft immediately released a statement that claimed 1.5 million NetWare users had migrated to Windows Server 2003.
The report came out at a crossroads of sorts for NetWare customers, who are preparing to upgrade legacy NetWare networks, DiDio said.
Novell executives were quick to counter the report, and during the inaugural day of BrainShare, Messman touted Novell's own internal numbers.
"We're not sure how the sample [of the Yankee Group survey] was collected, but based on our own survey there were only 5% of NetWare users looking to migrate," Messman said. "Microsoft is working hard to capture [NetWare] users, but I think our customers will continue to work on NetWare and evaluate our solution for that."
In response to Messman's dismissal, DiDio defended her data, and said that in the past year the numbers have not changed with Novell. Time after time Novell places second behind market share leader Red Hat, she said, and there is little evidence that would show a turnaround is in Novell's future.
"Novell just doesn't seem to be making up the gap," DiDio said. "If anything we see some of the smaller Linux distros like Mandrakesoft and Debian pick up a few percentage points."
DiDio also defended the sample size of the latest Yankee survey, saying that with the "static and stagnant growth" of Novell's market share, there "are not many users left" to conduct surveys with.
"As far as the survey goes, I stand by the numbers ... I conducted two surveys on general operating system information in November with 1,000 global users, and again Novell was down to 2% to 4% share," DiDio said. "Just look at [Novell's] own numbers; their latest financials show they were out shipped by a 5 to 1 margin compared to Red Hat."
Can Novell turn it around?
Not with this management team, with Messman's track record and the fact that Novell has lost the top talent, DiDio said.
"If you watch something for a while, like Novell, it's like watching the Red Sox. But in the technology world you can't wait a century for something to happen," DiDio said. "They have to break out of this mold and really score some impressive wins and close the gap with Red Hat."
DiDio said she did not see any indication that any "mold breaking" has happened over the past year, and it starting to have effect on Novell's business partners.
"Novell would never admit this publicly, but IBM and HP are starting to become little nervous," she said. "Now what we are seeing are these big vendors throwing all this money and support behind Novell and nothing has happened. It's sad for the users, but I don't see any big sign for Novell turning it around."
GroupWise support extended, MarketStart jumpstarted
Messman took part of yesterday's afternoon conference to announce 10- and 5-year support policies for GroupWise and NetMail, respectively. Both applications are set to be migrated into the future version of Novell's Hula project, and its support model is indicative of how Novell does not abandon its customer base, especially with legacy applications like NetWare, Messman said.
"If customers want to migrate, we will help them get there; we are still going to support them," Messman said. "NetMail is going to open source so that's why there are fewer years of support."
With the Hula project, Novell will support CalDAV, an open standard designed for calendar data interchange using HTTP and WebDAV. Additionally, Hula plans to offer a Web-based client user interface to compete with Microsoft's Outlook Web Access.
Messman also announced the beginning of the Novell MarketStart program, designed to accelerate open source adoption and provide small and medium-sized business (SMB) access to the Novell open source infrastructure.
"[MarketStart] will provide an opportunity for software developers to deliver to the global market faster," Messman said. "This will accelerate to market open source software companies that may not have the capability to mass market."
Messman explained that SMBs participating in the program would have access to Novell's development labs for compatibility testing.
"This is a customer-driven program; we help them certify their stack, upgrades and then retest for compatibility," he said. "It's about making complex Linux applications work on multiple platforms."