March 18, 2007
BrainShare: The Heart of Novell
For the first time, I decided to attend Novell's BrainShare conference. In the past I have been resistant to attending single-vendor sponsored shows, because once you attend one, you'd better get yourself to others, if only to avoid bias. I was able to get clearance for both BrainShare and Red Hat's Summit in May, so I figured I'd achieved my balance.
The reason I wanted to attend BrainShare this year, specifically, was to find out for myself if Novell was really a Linux company, or if they were just talking the talk.
Imagine my complete and utter surprise when I discovered I didn't need to actually attend the show to learn the answer.
It happened like this: the flight to Salt Lake City this afternoon was full--very--and so there were three of us in our little row, me on the aisle, a gentleman from Maryland in the middle, and a lady from Utah at the window. Seasoned travelers will know that in this situation, it's going to either be hours of uncomfortable silence, or some conversation to pass the time.
The lady at the window was one of those chatty folks, so it quickly went that way for my row-mates. But though I tried to add something to their conversation, it quickly seemed that they were not interested in talking to me. I didn't really take this personally, since I was looking forward to reading a book I'd brought and listening to a new U2 CD my kids gave me.
During the course of the flight, I picked up snippets of their conversation and learned he was a networking engineer also coming to BrainShare. He explained to the woman what he did--deployed enterprise desktops for corporations. If he mentioned "Linux," I didn't hear him over the music and the noise of the plane.
I meant to ask him during the flight about his work as a Novell vendor, but there was never an opening. (They talked a lot.)
Finally, the plane landed, and as I was starting to get my things gathered, the young man reached into this laptop bag and pulled out an Novell Linux Desktop CD. As he gave it to her, he explained what it was and why it might help her in running her small business. Just like that.
It wasn't a planned thing, just a spontaneous moment. He didn't know who I was, because I'd never really gotten a chance to input anything to their chat. He just did it.
And then I was left thinking; if this is an independent contractor who works with Novell, and he's handing out Linux CDs to people on planes, then maybe there is something Novell is doing as a culture to foster this kind of spontaneous outreach. Maybe Novell is indeed a Linux company at its heart.
Not all of my questions were answered, but that was a big one I wanted settled for my own sake. I didn'y even have to get off the plane.
Tomorrow: Bruce Perens vs. Ron Hovsepian in a cage match battle royale! Or, maybe just jousting press conferences.
I've been working with Novell for about 2 years now and know that Novell is indeed a Linux Company. They are risking all on Linux - if Suse & Linux prospers they will survive - if it fails they are toast.
If I call Novell and tell 'em I'm headed to a meeting and want to hand out some DVD's of SLES10 and SLED10 they will overnight me dozens of nicely packaged sets just to spread the news. If I'm teaching a Unix/Linux class their only question is how many sets do I need.
Watch what Novell does, talk to its people and you will find that they are indeed a Linux Company and in my humble opinion, they are The Premier Linux Company on the planet today.
By-the-by, when you go to the Red Hat show - ask 'em why you can't easily download iso's of RHEL5 or even RHEL4 from their site. Its dead easy to get iso's from Novell but try and get them from Red Hat. Prepare to have a chat with a sales being that wants to know what you are up to!
I have always thought one aspect of being a Linux Company is that you are open - open to ideas, open to letting folks know what you are doing. open to supporting universal standards, and open to giving back to the broader Linux community. Compare Novell to Red Hat and you may ask yourself a new question - is Red Hat a Linux Company?