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Novell wants its resellers onboard its new Linux direction. According to Ladd Timpson, Novell’s worldwide channel marketing director, and Mark Hardardt, vice president of global sales, Novell won’t just be pushing Linux. It wants its resellers to use Linux as the launching pad for an array of business network services.

The company is urging its resellers to push forward with business services based on GroupWise, network management services built on top of YaST and other Linux-based services. The idea is to show Novell’s partners that, as exciting as Linux is, the bigger future is selling services built on top of Novell’s operating system.

“We were expecting some pushback but 100 percent of the partners have at least some interest,” Timpson said in an interview at Novell BrainShare in Salt Lake City last week. “Linux has reopened the door for conversation. The resellers see that Novell is doing different things and they’re excited.”

Timpson wasn’t just blowing smoke. In conversations with Novell resellers on the show floor, Novell’s Linux-leanings had resellers excited. One Midwest reseller who asked not to be named put it frankly: “We were just counting the days for our customers to switch to Microsoft or Red Hat. Now, our customers are coming to us and asking about Linux.”

Next page: Linux Opens Doors for Resellers

As Hardardt said, “Linux has opened doors for our resellers. Customers want to know more about it. It feels like the early days again.” Timpson added, “Customers are asking about Novell again.”

Resellers are asking about Novell too even as Novell announced that we’ve seen the last stand-alone version of the company flagship’s NetWare operating system. In the future, NetWare will survive only in the Open Enterprise Server with SUSE Linux. SUSE Linux will also persist as a standalone program.

Timpson said, “We (the reseller side of Novell) were very integrated in the Open Enterprise Server decision. It wasn’t a hard decision. We had learned our lessons from UnixWare and NetWare. We want to make it easy for our resellers. If they, or their customers, don’t want to learn Linux, we give them the option of sticking with NetWare but don’t force them to make an either/or decision. If they do decide to use Open Enterprise Server’s Linux kernel we’ve made it easy for them to move to an open source solution.”

Part of doing that is by adding a new Novell Linux certification, the Novell Certified Linux Engineer (Novell CLE) certification. The goal, according to Hardardt is to “get as many partners up to speed with Linux as possible.” Novell isn’t looking for new partners, though. The goal is to bring their faithful reseller partners into Linux.

To do that, Novell is, Timpson said is, “As we do with any of our projects, we’re offering extensive training, the CLE certification and we’re working on a certification for Linux salespersons.

Next page: Making Money from Linux

Hardardt continues, “We’re also telling resellers how you make money from Linux, how to educate customers, and what to do with consolidation, migration, support and services. We’re working on best practices and methodologies for our partners.”

At the same time, Novell is incorporating the SUSE reseller community into its own. By Hardardt’s account, this process is going well. In no small part, that’s because both companies had similar tiers in a triangle organization.

SUSE’s resellers are being grandfathered into Novell’s PartnerNet without a charge. According to Hardardt, SUSE resellers have also been favorably inclined to the partnership since “They get to keep their identity and they’re now part of a much larger sales and development ecosystem.”

Novell will know that its reseller plans have really worked, though, when its resellers and customers start seeing the offering as more than just operating systems.