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Jack Messman, CEO of Novell, is cautious about forecasting the future of the Open Enterprise Server, which combines NetWare services on top of either the Netware or SuSE Linux Enterprise Edition kernel.

“We believe in Linux,” said Messman. “We’re migrating all 6,000 of our desktops from Windows to Linux. But with an enterprise operating system like OES [Open Enterprise Server] it’s going to take several quarters before customers decide if they’re comfortable with it.”

That being said, “Some customers have been waiting for it even before it went into beta,” Messman added.

When asked about the Microsoft report that the Yankee Group had found that NetWare users were moving from NetWare to Windows Server 2003 or, if they were considering Linux, moving to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Messman said, “That’s not what we’re seeing.”

It’s not that he expects an immediate upturn in revenue from OES. “It takes an enterprise time to consider switching its main operating system,” Messman said, “but we do see a lot of interest in OES both from our old customers and new ones.”

Michael Zepernick, president of Computer Integrated Services Co. of New York LLC, a Novell Inc. platinum reseller and a Microsoft Solutions Provider, said, “A year and a half or two years ago, people were moving to Server 2003 from NetWare, but now I see people going to SLES [SuSE Linux Enterprise Server.] That tide has stopped, and people are now giving strong consideration to moving to OES.”

In part this is because of “old NetWare users who went to Microsoft and are now looking at OES because of Linux. The jury is still out on its adoption, but it is encouraging to see interest again in Novell,” Zepernick said.

It’s not just dyed-in-the-wool Novell customers thinking about switching to OES.

Click here to read about Novell’s server-to-desktop Linux Small Business Suite 9.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest in OES in NYC. No one is widely adopting it yet, naturally, but we’re getting more people asking about it,” said Zepernick. “We already have had some customers for it.”

This includes some shops that have been Windows only, too. “We put in our share of Windows 2003 servers,” said Zepernick. “We offer people real professional choices. We lay out the options so they can make the best choice, and OES is becoming one of those choices.”

As for Red Hat, “Our SMB [small and midsize business] customers want to know who will maintain their systems that will support the software ecosystem. They know Novell can deliver, while Red Hat doesn’t have the service infrastructure they need to feel comfortable,” Zepernick said.