Novell brings collaboration via 'Net into focus

Borrowing the format of late-night television talk shows, network software maker Novell Inc. hosted an off-beat keynote session here Wednesday, offering a few morsels of insight into the future of network computing, the company's evolving product line and Sesame Street star Elmo, who appeared on stage as a guest.

Playing to a thin crowd of Krispy Kreme donut-eating showgoers, Darin Richins, Novell's senior vice president of marketing, hosted a session that included some quick interviews with Novell customers and channel partners. Aside from some plugs of its software, most notably its new NetWare 6 product line, Richins offered more comic relief than corporate insight -- taking jabs at Las Vegas casinos, Comdex cab lines as well as Bill Gates' Tuesday night cameo appearance on the television show "Frasier."

But if there was a common technology theme, it was the issue of managing corporate networks and making data available anywhere and anytime.

"Security is important, redundancy, identity is important," noted Ken Anderson, Novell's chief information officer, in a quick appearance on stage. "But one thing that sticks out is collaboration. The real win is collaboration anywhere on the Net."

One real-world example of how companies can use the Internet to allow their employees to collaborate is by building corporate portals, where information and services -- such as access to personnel data -- is maintained centrally. Vendors such as database software makers as well as Internet company Yahoo Inc. are delivering products to help companies build such portals. Tom Hochstatter, director of OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) and channel sales at Yahoo Inc., joined Richins as a guest on stage touting a partnership between the Internet giant and the software maker, and talked a bit about the importance of corporate portals as a means to enable collaboration within an organization. Yahoo uses Novell's eDirectory software alongside other services as part of its corporate portal product.

"The current portals haven't necessarily delivered on the original portal concept," Hochstatter said. He commented that customers are still looking for more personalization when building corporate Web sites. "We think that's really critical."

With the October release of Novell's NetWare 6 products -- a product that mirrors other strategies among software makers as companies look to make data and services available via the Internet -- the Provo, Utah company is trying to outfit customers with the tools necessary to allow companies to work together easily over the Internet. Unlike Novell's previous product line, the company doesn't require users to run a client-side application to access software and services.

For instance, Novell's new software package includes a feature called iFolder, which lets users securely access and synchronize their files, anywhere from any Internet-connected device. The company also offers a networked service called iPrint that enables users to printing documents remotely with a Web browser.

Yahoo's Hochstatter, whose company is founded on the concept of accessing content and services via the Web agreed that companies will further rely on a collaborative network for doing business."There's two critical components (of collaboration): Centralizing enterprise information and enhancing employee productivity."

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