Despite tough times, Novell users remain upbeat

Users attending Novell's BrainShare 2001 conference, which kicks off today, are convening as the ailing networking technology vendor closes a major acquisition and reshuffles its management team.

Last week, the company announced its US$266 million buyout of Cambridge Technology Partners.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts, IT services and consulting firm's CEO, Jack Messman, will replace Eric Schmidt as Novell's CEO when the deal closes. Schmidt will remain as chairman of Novell's board.

Although Novell laid off 16 percent of its workforce last September and reported operating losses of $13.3 million for its first fiscal quarter ended Jan. 31, many users said they remain upbeat.

The management reshuffle isn't an issue, said Kelli Carlson, a network administrator at juice manufacturer Odwalla Inc. Odwalla's servers run on Novell's NetWare 5.1 operating system, and Carlson uses other Novell products for LAN management, Internet access, security and caching services.

Carlson said she intends to get a preview of an upcoming version of the Web-enabled GroupWise e-mail and messaging software at BrainShare.

"A new release is on the horizon, and Novell has been waiting till BrainShare to give details on that," she said. Carlson also said she wants to be updated on Novell's Zenworks for Desktops management tool, which she said allows her to centrally distribute and maintain software on LAN clients with a relatively small IT staff.

Novell last week declined to comment on any announcements planned for BrainShare.

Curtis Parker, a LAN administrator for the state of Utah, also said he's unfazed by Novell's economic woes. The state has 500 NetWare servers in more than 100 offices running file-and-print and GroupWise applications and has no plans to change, he said.

Parker said that overall, he's pleased with Novell's directory and LAN management technology, but he wants to see NetWare features run natively on Unix server operating systems such as Solaris. "To dump Novell NetWare and go with a Microsoft network would be nuts," Parker said. "It would be like going from a brand-new Cadillac to a '69 Chevy."

"It may not be popular to stick up for Novell these days, but 'Big Red' is not dead yet, and we buy technology solutions, not marketing hype," said Chip DiComo, manager of global information services at Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, a transportation services company in Miami. "For Hellmann, Novell's technology is still very strategic," he said.

The company uses NetWare and Novell Directory Services (NDS) to maintain a "seamless global network," said DiComo, adding that NDS lets IT staffers manage user accounts and network resources from a single interface.

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