Novell pushes net directory approach

Novell, the fifth largest software company in the world, wants to be the internet directory leader by applying both technologies in all its products. This strategy, which began to take form last year with Eric Schmidt's appointment as CEO, manifests itself today in Novell's latest product initiatives and business ventures.

Douglas Knight, vice president for systems engineering at Novell, said the Novell management team has decided to turn the company into a full service internet company. This is being done, he said, by developing their own suite of internet solutions, by making available an internet investment fund, and by creating an in-the-net service group to focus on the (internet) business-to-consumer market.

Novell's internet investment fund targets companies with products that can complement Novell's own, particularly the directory. Knight said Novell usually invests less than 20 per cent in every company. He added that $US35 million of the initial $50 million fund has already been invested in companies like Natoria, which has an AP-based solution, Organic, which is a directory company, Food.com, and Netvision, which does directory utility development on network directory service (NDS). Knight said Novell management will allocate a bigger fund the next time around.

The in-the-net service group, meanwhile, was created only last month to promote consumer awareness for Novell's new solutions like digitalme and myrealbox.com. Digitalme is an internet identity management service that promises to contribute to the proliferation of NDS-based internet solutions. Myrealbox.com is a free e-mail service by Novell that is directory-enabled. Unlike other free e-mail services, this one has no ad injections. It features POP3 and IMAP 4 and can run in different environments.

The whole internet strategy is seen as a natural evolution of Novell's product lines. From offering local directories (NetWare 2x/3x) in 1985, the company moved to network directories (NDS 4x) and now to cross-platform, scalable, and open directories (NDS 5 for NT and Unix, Zen). By next year, Novell is looking at what it calls community directories, which will be full service and net-based (NDS 8, LDAP, ERP, etc).

In the same briefing, Novell executives showed that their company has already laid out the corresponding technologies for every business area in which it is involved, including the internet. After establishing itself in directory-enabled management and applications, Novell is now busying itself in the areas of directory-enabled security management and directory-enabled content management.

For directory-enabled security management, Novell is focusing on solutions for virtual private networks, authentication, intrusion detection, and single sign-on, among others. For directory-enabled content management, Novell is working on caching, multimedia, data mining, advertisement injection, and contact manipulation. The fifth business area is directory-enabled commerce, where Novell is readying products to handle identity, e-business, extranet management, and community management.

Patrick Harr, director of product management - internet solutions at Novell, said the company is also keenly focused on developing an internet caching system (ICS) and other appliances. "We're now more customer-focused than engineering-focused. We learned of customers' headaches that resulted in products like ICS, and single sign-on," Harr said.

The ICS production has been licensed by Novell to OEM partners Cisco, Compaq, Dell, IBM, NEC and to an Australian company, Microbit.

"Novell created the ICS, a plug-and-play box to tap non-traditional markets. Our OEMs offer different tiers of ICS depending on clients' needs, which can vary from only for branch offices to ISPs and telecom companies," said Harr.

Novell's appliance initiative will continue to include other appliances such as network attached storage. "We will deliver more appliances that play on our traditional strength. We are going towards developing appliances that will let people cache real networks on multimedia streams and increase Web content not only in big but especially in small pipes (bandwidth)."

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