On February 8, Novell is expected to take the wraps off its iChain electronic-business software, which analysts say is a critical release for the company.
Novell needs to grow beyond its dwindling NetWare file and print market, but observers said they doubted its ability to succeed in the e-commerce arena and make iChain a standard.
IChain will be the first incarnation of Novell's attempt to take its Novell Directory Services (NDS) outside the firewall and position it as a tool for managing e-commerce relationships. The software will be aimed at supply-chain relationships.
Analyst Dana Gardner at Aberdeen Group in Boston said iChain demonstrates the benefit of directory-enabled applications. But Gardner said he expects it to appeal mainly to Novell's installed base.
"Novell has to find other business opportunities" outside NetWare, said analyst Steve Kleynhans at Meta Group. "The iChain initiative is a positive step in that it proves you can take a directory out and use it as an e-business platform."
But Kleynhans said e-commerce "is not an area where Novell has lots of presence." And Novell has always been weak at marketing, he added.
Rob White, manager of technical support at off-shore drilling company Global Marine in Houston, said the iChain concept sounds promising. "But can we force our suppliers to implement it?" White said Global is very satisfied with NDS as an internal tool, but he wondered whether Novell will have the clout to realise its ambitions.