There's to be a new name for Novell NetWare but still the old kernel soldiers on. Version 7 of the venerable OS is to be called Open Enterprise Server and is, according to reports, to be fused with SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and ship before the end of 2004.

Open Enterprise Server (OES) is designed to give Novell customers a way of migrating to Linux without disrupting their NetWare environments, while at the same time offering Linux users the chance to use NetWare's applications and networking services. A new version of Nterprise Linux Services, version 2.0 which is due to ship this year, will effectively be folded into Open Enterprise Server and be discontinued as a separate product when Open Enterprise Server ships.

OES will be the cornerstone of a new, more relevant and more customer-focused Novell, said CEO Jack Messman at BrainShare, the company's annual beanfeast. "Many of our customers thought that we had gone dark in many respects," he said. "With the new strategy, I think the marketplace is recognising that all of those things we were working on are pretty good."

What's hard to ascertain though is whether there will be a separate NetWare 7 kernel; part of the problem is that all those worth speaking to are at BrainShare in Salt Lake City.

However, Novell's overall plan appears not to have changed since last we spoke to the company about the issue. Novell will gradually migrate users from NetWare, which it no longer positions as a separate OS.

"People misunderstand what NetWare is. It is a collection of services, running on the NetWare kernel," said Brian Green, director of Novell Nterprise in the UK last August. "The services will continue, and users will have the option to replace the kernel with Red Hat or SuSE."

When we spoke to technical director Steve Gaines, he confirmed this view. Of the NetWare kernel, he said: "I couldn't see it disappearing before about 2010 so our customers can migrate as and when they wish to do so."

Given Novell's tradition of supporting users for as long as they are still gaining value from its products - unlike Microsoft's aggressive software retirement schedules - the chances are that this will remain Novell's strategy unless, or until, force majeure intervenes.

Novell is working at integrating other software as well. Within a month, the company expects to release a beta version of its ZENworks 6.5 management software that will be integrated with the Ximian Red Carpet Enterprise patch management software Novell acquired last August. ZENworks 6.5 will also include InstallShield's AdminStudio software packaging app.

Novell also launched two new open source projects. As expected, it announced plans to release its YAST (Yet Another Setup Tool) Linux configuration management software under an open-source licence. Also released was software that will form the basis of its Novell iFolder file back-up product under the open-source GNU General Public License (GPL). Built on top of Novell's Mono framework, iFolder can be used to automatically back up and manage a user's files on remote machines.

Novell claims that BrainShare has drawn 6,000 attendees this year, as many as 25 per cent of them are first time attendees drawn in by an interest in Linux.

Novell's claim on Linux is so big that the company built the BrainShare network on 25 SuSE Linux servers running Ximian Desktop and the SuSE desktop. "We don't got no stinkin' Windows at BrainShare this year," Messman said, ungrammatically. Novell is rolling out SuSE and the open source OpenOffice productivity suite internally.