OSS offers cheaper, open source Windows alternative

Novell claims its Open Workgroup Suite will cost 70% less than Microsoft's alternative

Novell’s desktop solution costs up to 70% less to operate than the equivalent Microsoft products, says Open Systems Specialists, which resells the solution.

Three months ago, Novell announced that its alternative to the Windows family, Open Workgroup Suite, was now available.

“In the past, we had to take components of open source technology from different vendors and build them into a solution,” says Gavin Stone, sales manager at OSS.

“While that is an acceptable way of doing things, having a single vendor that provides [an] entire offering is quite favourable from our point of view for two reasons. There is one point of responsibility … one throat to strangle, and there is a significant price reduction [because of the bundle offering].”

When Stone and his OSS colleagues were first introduced to the Open Workgroup Suite they were a bit sceptical about the 70% reduction in price, he says.

“We did our own research and looked at a number of different pricing options, and we found that with most of the pricing options [the discount] was above 60% and more likely closer to 70%,” he says.

Based on the assumptions OSS made, an organisation with 100 users, working in a Microsoft environment, would spend about $140,000 on things like upgrades and Microsoft’s Software Assurance over a two-year period. If the same organisation used the Open Workgroup Suite environment the cost would be less than $40,000, says Stone.

“The 25-user comparison we did, with the same assumptions, had the Microsoft environment sitting at just under $40,000 and the Open Workgroup Suite sitting at just under $10,000,” he says.

OSS initially plans to just talk to its clients about the Novell option. Starting at the end of July, the company will run a series of informal seminars about the content, history and credibility of the open source product.

“There is an absolute viable alternative [to Windows] now for 80% of the [computer-reliant] workforce,” he says.

“Of course, there are some people that have specialty applications that the product can’t cater for. There will be some high-end services that aren’t offered [in this product].”

Stone says Novell’s product suite is primarily designed for the bulk of the workforce, call centres or administrative staff, for example.

There has already been a lot of interest in the product-set, says Stone. However, he thinks there will always be some reluctance to change from an operating system that people know so well.

“Right now, [organisations] have two choices. They can continue to pay Microsoft, and commit to that environment, or they can look at an alternative.”

As the release of Vista draws nearer, organisations might be considering jumping ship (given the cost implications), from a hardware, software and a training point of view, of changing to a new Microsoft operating system, Stone says.

Some people out there are “sick of paying Microsoft money for nothing”, he says. But, at the same time, there are a lot of customers who are committed to Microsoft. “And I don’t think that will change in a hurry,” he says.

OSS is obviously an open standards advocate, which means that the company supports the open source movement, he says. But it won’t force clients down the open source path if it doesn’t make sense for the client to go that way, Stone says.

Novell’s Open Workgroup Suite includes Open Enterprise Server, GroupWise for collaboration, the ZENworks suite for cross-platform systems management, Novell Linux desktop and OpenOffice.org for Windows and Linux.

The suite runs on Linux servers and any desktop platform. It is also available in a cross-platform version, Novell says.

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