IT veteran achieves perfect Zen through open source

28 Aug 2008

Utah software company Novell employs 150 people in Dublin. The advent of open source software, particularly Linux, gave this long-standing IT giant a new lease of life. Ron Hovsepian is the company’s CEO

After dominating the network software world, Novell lost its way in the Nineties before embracing open source to get back on track. How is this strategy proceeding?

I give my predecessors all the credit for that. Ten years ago the right decisions were made and we’re now looking at the third generation of this technology.

In the past year we’ve added 8,700 customers, which is an important testament to where the team is going and the relevance of the products in the marketplace.

Approximately 20pc of our turnover goes into R&D, which is above the industry standard.

The move to open source coincided with the arrival of virtualisation, one of the biggest changes in enterprise computing. But is the business world embracing it?

We have over 2.5 million versions of SUSE Linux out in the market enabled with virtualisation and, in Europe, companies like BMW are using the technology.

While servers are being virtualised – to handle greater workloads – you will see other trends begin to emerge, such as storage virtualisation, desktop virtualisation, even application virtualisation.

Is there not a danger that the virtualisation trend is over-hyped and that physical servers will still be needed for businesses?

That is true. You will find that certain workloads are better off on a physical server and that there are certain workloads that are ideal for being virtualised and moved around.

Just because the world says virtualised servers are the next big thing, it doesn’t mean businesses will necessarily abandon their legacy servers. They will most likely opt for both.

In recent years, Novell and Microsoft put their long-standing feud to an end and have agreed to co-operate. Is this working?

It’s going very well insofar as we originally agreed to co-operate on three distinct projects and now we’re working on nine projects and there’s a good list of 19 other projects that we plan to co-operate on.

From a point where we were aggressive competitors, and in some respects we still are, we have open conversations.

From a business perspective, a better working relationship with Microsoft has pumped out US$150m worth of invoicing for us. So we’re obviously pleased.

Novell has been in Ireland since 1995 and last year announced 40 new jobs. How is the Dublin operation performing in your eyes?

The expansion last year was a function of the transformation of our business model. We decided to roll out a shared services centre across the company and the Dublin operation is responsible for five key areas: HR, finance, operations, teleweb and globalisation and localisation.

Our headcount in Ireland has probably increased by 50pc in the past year to 150 people. We placed our bet on the Irish, we’re here and that’s it.

Being consistent in the processes that are run out of Dublin is vital to our strategy of being consistent with our technology. We’re not really going anywhere else.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years