Novell has announced a number of new product and service offerings at its annual hug-fest known as BrainShare, as well as providing insight into the future of its collaboration product GroupWise, and its plans for supporting the open source community.

New is Novell Linux Small Business Suite 9, a version of SuSE Linux for small businesses. It integrates a number of products, according to Novell's Linux product manager Brian Green, such as its collaboration product GroupWise, and the SuSE Linux Desktop. Also included are security and management products.

Green said that integration of the whole was designed around the established Linux installation tool YAST, but that he expected most installs to be performed by channel partners and third party software vendors, who could add their own software into the mix. "It allows them to add value", said Green.

“Small businesses will benefit from this dependable, cost-effective solution that provides a greater choice of software and hardware, eliminating vendor lock-in,” said Novell VP David Patrick. “That means they can focus on what matters most – running their business.”

Available now, the system costs $475 per five new user licences or $252 per five users upgrading from other Novell or competitive products.

The second announcement centred around Zenworks Linux Management, which Green said allows you to manage a Windows systems from Linux. Features include software distribution, and policy and patch management. The benefit, said Green, is that the system removes any dependency on NetWare which had received a positive response from Novell's customers, many of whom are in the process of migrating from NetWare to Linux.

Green said that Novell GroupWise will be updated in the summer of 2005, and will include the ability to support Outlook clients. Codenamed Sequoia, Green said Novell saw the product as an alternative to Microsoft Exchange. In addition, it will refresh the Windows, Mac and Linux clients, and add support for industry standard APIs such as SOAP and XML.

Open source support
Green said that Novell was adding support via a validation programme, which will allow its customers to install and use products in the knowledge that they have been tested to work together. Green said that the Novell Validated Configuration programme will include support and patches, and allows Novell to be a single point of support. "It's about the strength of our alliances, as our partners include IBM, HP and Oracle," he said. "It adds a comfort factor for customers."

Novell will open its global distribution and support channels to open source independent software vendors (ISVs). In a programme dubbed Market Start, Novel wants to seed innovation, and Green hinted that Novell might take a financial interest in some of the companies.