Novell Launches Open-Source Collaboration

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Novell has announced it will donate more than 200,000 lines of code from its NetMail solution to commence Hula, a new open-source collaboration server initiative. This source code, which comprises the core components of NetMail, will add calendar and mail features to the Hula project.

“We’ve been looking about at some of the challenges facing the collaboration industry for quite a while,” said Brian Cardoza, who manages desktop and collaboration products at Novell. “We see that the industry is almost topped out in terms of what it’s offering in terms of core collaboration capabilities. A lot of the key vendors are starting to head off into the broader aspect of collaboration. On the other hand, our strength is really doing the core of collaboration well.


“It occurred to us that there were some innovations needed, and also some standards needed, in order to move things forward,” he added. “We saw some areas of innovation between integration, between types of devices and modes of communication such as e-mail interconnecting with text-based services such as SMS-enabled cell phones.”


The Hula collaboration server, which was designed to fill a gap in the market, currently has standards-based e-mail, calendaring and address book functionality that can scale to 250,000 registered users on a single PC with 50,000 simultaneously connected users. “Open implementations have really served as a cradle for innovation,” Cardoza said. “That’s really the motivation to take our NetMail technology and tribute it to a project to create this kind of environment.


“We made a strategic decision to move the bulk of NetMail into open source, but we certainly intend to be the premier provider of commercialized versions of the Hula project. Basically, what we did was removed any component that required you to use another Novell technology and replaced it with a lightweight, stubbed-out interface or a standard interface. That’s just good open-source citizenship. Will it put NetMail out of business? No, because we’ll commercialize Hula as a future edition of NetMail.”


While Hula might appeal to the Linux community because of its open-source nature, Cardoza believes it will be attractive to any user who wants a robust collaboration tool. “I think there’s a high affinity between people who are interested in Linux and people who are interested in open-source projects in general,” he said. “You have to take a look at NetMail’s heritage to understand that it’s going to have a broader appeal than just the Linux community. The people who are going to be interested in Hula are going to be the people who are looking for a complement; something that’s going to extend messaging services to a broader audience than those that are currently served with the integrated collaboration products.”


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