Novell is pinning its hopes for rebounding from financial losses and declining revenue on an emerging line of e-business technology and services, and some attendees at the struggling company's BrainShare 2001 user conference said they buy into its vision -- though not without some qualms.
During the opening session of the conference here yesterday, Novell recapped its One Net strategy for building network installations that tie corporate intranets and extranets together with the public Internet. Novell also announced several products, including software that's supposed to give users a single view of multiple e-business applications.
The One Net approach was designed for users who want to connect their business partners, customers and internal operations with one another via both corporate and external networks, even if the different companies are running disparate systems, according to Novell executives.
For example, they said, the UK's Ministry of Defense was able to use Novell's network services technology to create a secure online catalog for military procurement uses. The system runs on both Windows and Novell's own NetWare software, and it connects on the back end to an Oracle database.
Despite Novell's financial woes, Rich Wyant, manager of Novell technical services atTwentieth Century Fox said he's ready to sign on for the One Net program, provided that senior executives at the Fox Broadcasting Co. unit can be persuaded to go along with additional investments in Novell's software.
"I think they have everything in place right now to enable you to put together an unbelievable enterprise [network]," Wyant said. "It's just a matter of getting the buy-in from management."
Twentieth Century Fox already uses Novell's directory services software to let end users at 35 sites around the world access central resources over the Web, according to Wyant. The company also uses Novell's firewall software and has ongoing projects based on its administration and integration technologies, including a single sign-on tool that lets users access all network applications with one password.
Bruce McLeod, a system architect for network services at the California Highway Patrol in Sacramento, raised the possibility that Novell could go out of business or be acquired by another technology vendor. But that doesn't mean its products would simply disappear, he added.
"The worst-case scenario is that Novell is bought out, but the technology is going to be around [even if that happens]," McLeod said. "I think Novell will succeed, even if it's not called Novell." The highway patrol has a 10,000-seat network based on 200 NetWare servers, and it also uses Novell's GroupWise e-mail software.
McLeod said he's interested in the single-view portal software that Novell announced yesterday. That could make it much easier to do things such as sending messages out to all highway patrol personnel via the existing network, McLeod said. For example, he added, notifying workers to conserve as much power as possible during California's energy crisis has required the use of "a clumsy mechanism" in Novell's management software.
On Semiconductor, a Phoenix-based maker of commodity semiconductors and integrated circuits, is another Novell user. The company, which is owned by Semiconductor Components Industries, implemented Novell's directory software to make personal data about its employees accessible to them from a single Web-based user interface.
The information is spread across 11 different human resources systems that are mostly proprietary and lack support for sharing and synchronizing data, said Bill Ender, who was a member of On Semiconductor 's workforce productivity team before leaving in January to form a consulting firm called Dirxon in Tempe, Ariz.
By using Novell's software, Ender said, On Semiconductor was able to let workers change their addresses and other personal data through self-service mechanisms. The semiconductor maker also uses the software to track assets such as pagers and cell phones, which Ender said helped the company save more than US$500,000 in costs related to disconnected phone lines and devices that were still being used by employees who had left the company.