Novell CEO picking his battles

Users agree with company’s plan to create infrastructure services, but see short-term issues that need answers

Novell wants to shed historical comparisons with industry titans and focus on developing its core technologies into a set of infrastructure services it says will define its success going forward, according to company CEO Ron Hovsepian.

Novell, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last week, lost its industry titan tag more than a decade ago, but its strategies continue to draw comparisons to the likes of IBM and Microsoft. Hovsepian says he won't back down from a fight, but that Novell is now picking its battles, and its friends, wisely.

"We are past that old business of hanging on," Hovsepian says. "As you look at the [networking] stack it is about knowing what your role is at each layer at macro and micro levels."

The Novell chief, known for a friendly demeanor that hides his competitive fire, says the company will continue to battle the likes of Microsoft in certain areas, such as server and desktop operating systems, but will complement Microsoft and other vendors in technology areas such as systems management and applications.

The latter is evidenced by this week's extension of a partnership with SAP that opens to Novell the huge SAP install base and the opportunity to supply it with platform, virtualization and identity support.

Novell's strategy, called Fossa and introduced last week at its annual BrainShare conference, calls for delivery of network infrastructure as a set of services that can be interconnected, integrated across platforms or run stand-alone. The modular platform isn't long on new technologies, but mostly includes enhancements, acquisitions and infusions of standards to its Linux, virtualization, orchestration, policy, identity, compliance, management and collaboration tools.

Hovsepian says he set the ball rolling on Fossa in 2006 when he aligned Novell's core strengths with network layers and began figuring out where Novell would compete and partner.

The major milestone has been the controversial interoperability and cross-patent licensing deal Novell signed with Microsoft in November 2006. The latest signs of the plan have been acquisitions of collaboration vendor SiteScape and virtualization management player PlateSpin.

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