Novell Inc.'s announcement today that it has released the Ximian Connector to open source and integrated it into the Evolution groupware suite puts a big carrot out there for enterprises hedging on deploying Linux desktops.
Connector is an extension to Evolution that functions as a Microsoft Exchange Server client for Linux and Unix desktops and workstations. Companies looking at Linux desktops will be able to solve a big interoperability concern via Connector, said Nat Friedman, Novell vice president, desktop technologies group.
"If you can't drop a Linux box onto your network and have it talk to everyone as if it were Windows, you're out of business," Friedman said. "Companies want to keep their existing infrastructures. You don't want to deploy Linux desktops and have to change your backend infrastructures."
In addition to being immediately available via open source, the Ximian Connector will be integrated into Evolution 2.0 starting in the third quarter. Friedman said Novell hopes to release a complete Linux desktop by the end of the year.
Novell has staked its future on Linux, evident by its acquisition of Ximian last year and SuSE Linux AG in January. It also made SuSE's YaST (Yet another Setup Tool) system configuration tool available to open source in March. But Friedman said these were more than gestures of goodwill by a relative newcomer to the open source community.
"As independent companies with limited resources in a growing market, things like YaST and Connector made sense; they gave [Ximian and SuSE] an edge," Friedman said. "With Novell, with its huge sales force and channel, we're trying to build complete end-to-end solutions. It doesn't make sense to be distracted [by trying to sell these as point solutions]."
The ultimate goal, Friedman said, is to establish the Ximian Connector and YaST as computing standards. Connector's inclusion in Evolution goes a long way in that direction as most Linux distributions include Evolution as their e-mail and groupware solution. Evolution, meanwhile, is also available via open source in addition to being supported by Novell.
Evolution 2.0 will include new spam filtering features, S/MIME and PGP security certificate management and the GAIM instant messaging client. Evolution 2.0 will also support Novell GroupWise 6.5 for Linux, a collaboration suite. Users will be able to use Evolution to access GroupWise mail, calendars, contacts and address books.
"We're gearing up for a Novell Linux Desktop," Friedman said. "We're focusing on what is key to our customers and focusing our engineering resources there."
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