Novell future

It could be that I used to be the editor of Network World, it could be that because I have been to its light industrial-like HQ complex in exciting Provo, Utah and to a few BrainShare networkers' conventions in my distant past that I have a curiosity about the fortunes or misfortunes of Novell.

This is a company forced by Microsoft to reinvent itself over recent times after going down a few dead ends in the mid 90s. The company claims leadership for its eDirectory technology and for the latest version of that old mainstay - NetWare, now up to V 6.0.

The company used a recent BrainShare user conference to announce a swag of "ambitious" initiatives as well its intentions to continue development of "bread-and-butter" products: NetWare, GroupWise and ZENworks.

Recently returned to the company, Novell vice chairman Chris Stone pushed NetWare's "continued importance" and outlined how in the first half of next year the company plans to ship a new version, codenamed Nakoma. This will support J2EE and Web services standards such as SOAP and UDDI. A product manager added that a full J2EE Web environment is being built into NetWare with pieces such as JBoss, MySQL, Tomcat, and Apache. Novell also plans to expand platform support to include Linux, Unix, Windows, and AIX.

"This company is moving completely to standard interfaces, standard views, and open environments. All our APIs and interfaces will be based on XML. That is it. There will be no more proprietary interfaces," Stone said.

A key plank is eDirectory, which Stone claims will drive the adoption of UDDI. This technology was made available free to independent software vendors (to embed into their applications) late last year, and now Novell boasts that eDirectory has "surpassed" 420 million licences worldwide.

Stone is also said to be ushering in a more aggressive attitude shift, particularly with regard to Microsoft.

"We learned from Microsoft aggressive tactics to get customers to move from Novell to Microsoft. It is time we started using those tactics," he said recently. "Microsoft has been giving away NT, with the plan to upsell from there. We will do the same thing, to beat Microsoft at the same game."

According to other reports from the BrainShare conference, these initiatives included replacing all the different management interfaces it uses with one Web-based tool, phasing out proprietary development environments such as NetWare Loadable Modules in favour of standards-based protocols and tools, reorganising developers into groups that will "stitch" products into bundles that will be pitched to high-level IT executives, abandoning its NetWare road map and pursue modular 32- and 64-bit versions of NetWare for low- to high-end server and blade server environments. The company also aims to move away from a single product focus to a solution approach that combines Novell technologies with services from Cambridge Technology Partners, which it acquired last year.

A Gartner analyst expressed scepticism about whether the company has the resources to accomplish all these developments in a timely fashion. The latest quarterly results (announced May 23) reported revenue of $US274 million for its second fiscal quarter ended April 30, 2002.

Ed Anderson, director of product management for Net Directory Services, said, "Everything we do can be traced back to ROI - allowing users to do more with less." Examples cited included only half the number of administrators being needed to run a bunch of NetWare servers by comparison with Microsoft offerings.

It would be great to hear where Novell fits within your IT plans? Legacy or future track?

David_Beynon@idg.com.au, Editor in chief.

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