Novell will begin its local Linux drive with nationwide seminars for partners and customers early next year to educate and train its channel in SuSE Linux.
Its acquisition of SuSE Linux is expected to be approved by February.
The vendor had plans to stage introductory Linux seminars around this time, Novell's manager of partner relationships, Steve Martin, said.
"It'll be one of the biggest things we do next year, if not the biggest," he said.
"Nothing's official yet, but we'll have an introductory seminar to Linux which will be free for partners and potential partners, and then sales and technical training," Martin said.
"The key thing is we'll be exposing them to Linux. We'll be showing them how to implement Linux solutions and how to position themselves in the Linux space."
He said Novell's US operation was currently developing SuSE training courses.
"I imagine there'll be a few courses available covering the desktop and the server," Martin said.
The seminars should coincide with the release of Novell Nterprise Linux Services Version 1, due for the first quarter of 2004.
"The key message is that Novell is adding Linux, not replacing NetWare with it," Martin said of the SuSE deal.
"NetWare 7 will have a NetWare kernel and a Linux kernel."
The vendor will also research the local Linux solutions landscape. It aims to encourage Linux service providers to become Novell partners.
"We expect that in the first half of next year we'll do most SuSE business through existing Novell partners, but by the latter half the broader channel will understand Novell and Linux," Martin said.
Few customers had investigated Linux, he said.
For partners with Linux skills and Novell's Linux support, the opportunities were great.
"Integration partners, the sort that do desktop rollouts etc, will adopt the Linux opportunities quickly," he said. "Although the market is getting tougher and more customers have these skills these days, they'll succeed by offering skills and services customers don't have."
On the support side, more than half Novell's Australian technical staff had undergone Linux training over the last three months, Martin said.
Formal SuSE support will be available once the SuSE acquisition has been finalised, he said.
Novell's current Linux support covered only its technologies on SuSE and Red Hat platforms.
SuSE for the masses
SuSE's increased penetration will also be a boon to the exclusive distributor of the operating system in Australia and New Zealand, Bluefire.
Despite the liklihood of losing its exclusive SuSE distributor status, the company expects to do well in Linux development and services.
"I believe [SuSE] will be released to the Novell distribution channel and the SuSE distribution channel," Bluefire director, Jason Serda, said.
"We've been the only SuSE presence in Asia Pacific, so that [distribution issue] will be probably be defined going forward."
Serda is also managing director of SuSE Linux Australasia.
A Novell platinum and SuSE premium partner, Bluefire is bolstering its services side.
Bluefire offers nation-wide Linux development (25 staff) and services, and is currently working on Red Hat Package Management (RPM) changes for SuSE's next version.
The company recently added several Linux sales and technical staff to its employee base of 100, Serda said.
"Those additions have just come from the demand from the market as a result of the acquisition," he said. "We can do bundled SLA agreements with helpdesk and response times in this region.
"I've just been travelling interstate to talk to government and big business to let them know the extra support and services that will be available.
"I'd say there's between 20 to 30 active SuSE trial at the moment, and that's the bigger guys."
Serda agreed with Martin's view that SuSE would remain separate to NetWare for the forseeable future, and that convergence would only come in the form of available solutions.
"We're always going to have a lot of hybrid systems," he said. "I think Novell will try to provide an easy platform for the next generation of NetWare users. There'll be an option to continue with both."