Novell ramps up application provisioning

Eyeing improved application and content provisioning, Novell Inc. on Wednesday announced plans to acquire directory-based software vendor Novetrix Corp. for an undisclosed sum and introduced an updated version of its Novell OnDemand Services provisioning software.

Novetrix, in Fountain Valley, California, makes thin-client technology, dubbed DeFrame, which allows access to Windows terminal servers via Novell Directory Services (NDS) eDirectory. In essence, this lets end-users tap corporate applications, such as the Microsoft Office productivity suite, and digital content through a Web browser without having client software deployed at the desktop, according to officials at Provo, Utah-based Novell.

Version 1.5 of Novell OnDemand Services integrates this thin-client technology from Novetrix into NDS eDirectory, allowing users to access Windows-based applications across multiple networks.

Combining OnDemand with DeFrame creates a zero-byte client, which takes away the need to deploy client code on a workstation, said Amer Jneid, president of Novetrix.

"[DeFrame is] a light plug-in that allows self-subscription for services and self-provisioning for applications over any bandwidth without the need for IT or help desk involvement," Jneid said. "For an enterprise, this allows flexibility and the freedom to access what they need from any browser. This is all without making a call to the help desk."

In addition, OnDemand 1.5 can let an enterprise act as its own ASP (application service provicer), Jneid said.

"This sets up a pay-per-view model where you can request services on demand inside and outside the enterprise," Jneid said. "You can sign on to your own network and get your own applications or get outsourced applications launched from somewhere else without compromising speed."

Down the road, Novell plans to bundle OnDemand Services with ZENworks for Desktops, which will let enterprise administrators manage desktop computers, laptops, and thin-client servers though a single management offering, according to Novell officials.

Novell also is considering adding the DeFrame technology into its Novell Portal Services offering. This would allow legacy and Web applications to be accessed directly through the portal, according to Jneid.

Version 2.0 of OnDemand Services, expected this summer, will include a workflow policy management feature that will allow access to specific applications based on business policies, such as job function or department, Jneid said.

The purchase of Novetrix punctuates what has already been a very busy week for Novell. On Monday, Novell announced plans to acquire management consulting vendor Cambridge Technology Partners in a deal worth approximately US$266 million. As part of the acquisition, Novell chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said he will leave the position of CEO, allowing Cambridge president and CEO Jack Messman to assume the head post at Novell. Schmidt said he would continue his role as chairman of the Novell board of directors, with the added role of chief strategist for the company.

According to one analyst, Novell's business will be well served with the addition of a strong service organization, but questions still linger about the company's leadership.

"A company like Novell in the network services infrastructure business would do well to have a professional services arm. It makes sense they would seek one," said Dana Gardner, research director at Aberdeen Group, in Boston. "However, they still have some vision to generate from a management perspective about how Novell will be run better, leaner, and faster under [the new leadership], And how it will exercise its new professional services arm."

"It seems like a marriage of convenience between these companies, but whether this will create progeny that will be of interest to customers and the market at large is a question mark," Gardner added.

Cathleen Moore is an InfoWorld senior writer.

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