Novell Amps Up Linux Plans at BrainShare

Novell has made several announcements concerning Linux at its annual BrainShare developers conference and is expected to announce a partnership with HP to bring Linux to its corporate laptop and desktop computers.

Novell spokesperson Bruce Lowry declined to discuss the HP announcement with the E-Commerce Times before the joint press conference, scheduled for later in the day. He said the press conference will feature Novell vice chairman Chris Stone and HP Linux vice president Martin Fink.

On Tuesday, Novell announced that IBM had completed a US$50 million investment in the company. Plans for this investment first became public last fall when Novell purchased SuSE Linux. Some analysts think IBM could be planning to use Novell — which claims to own copyrights to Unix source code — as a hedge against SCO, which has filed a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against IBM.

SuSE on the Server

Novell also announced Tuesday that it will allow IBM to preload SuSE Linux on all servers in IBM’s eServer series. Noting that IBM already had a preexisting relationship with SuSE, Novell spokesperson Lowry said this is an expansion of an existing agreement.

For his part, Jim Stallings, general manager of corporate Linux at IBM, called the expanded agreement a milestone.

“We are extremely pleased with our growing business relationship with Novell, one of the premier providers of Linux in the world,” Stallings said. “Linux delivers a compelling value proposition that enables many businesses worldwide to deploy large-scale engagements that benefit from Linux, including lower costs, greater stability and increased security.”

Brain Dead?

However, Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio, who has covered Novell since 1987, told the E-Commerce Times that hawking Linux and bringing out ex-Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar to perform at BrainShare does not erase the fact that Novell’s marketing and product strategy over the last 10 years has been a disaster.

“I wish I had a dollar for every new marketing plan Novell has put out over the last decade,” DiDio said. “They can’t seem to get out of their own way.”

DiDio pointed out that Novell’s flagship NetWare server operating system and its eDirectory directory services offerings fell from 75 percent market share 10 years ago to 4 percent today, despite the technical excellence of both products.

“You have to be trying very hard to let your market share fall to that degree,” she said. “And they are still not articulating their NetWare strategy as that market recedes further.

“If you were a NetWare client, and you saw the way Novell is pushing Linux, what would you think?” DiDio added. “They talk about porting eDirectory to Linux, but you can’t just slap it on that way. They’ve offered no road map, no release date. It’s more of the same.”

All in the Execution

According to DiDio, the IBM deal is another in a series of great partnerships Novell has forged, including one with Oracle. However, to make good on execution of these agreements, Novell needs to craft a cogent, coherent marketing message and have it resonate.

“Despite the big show it’s putting on over at BrainShare, Novell’s track record in acquisitions is exceedingly poor,” DiDio said. “Two years ago, Novell purchased Silver Stream in a Web services push. What’s happened to Silver Stream? Almost nothing. Most of [Silver Stream’s] talent has left the company.”

Given Novell’s bungling of Silver Stream, WordPerfect and other acquisitions, DiDio sounded a pessimistic note about SuSE’s and Linux desktop provider Ximian’s chances to prosper.

“There are big credibility issues concerning [Novell’s] ability to execute on anything,” she said. “For the sake of its customers, I hope Novell doesn’t ruin SuSE like it has with all the others.”


  • No argument about Novell’s marketing – it’s been abysmal. In fact, that’s the only reason MS got such a leg-up in the 90’s. Novell’s declining market share sure wasn’t due to the products… However, I think the story’s representation of Novell’s market share might be skewed by the number of other vendors’ pre-installs (often removed in favour of something that works and is secure).
    About Ms. DiDio – Once again, she’s proven she doesn’t have a clue. Novell eDirectory on Linux is nothing new. It’s been available for a couple of years now (since NDS 8) – and by the way, it’s bullet proof. But then, those of us who do have a clue realize that the Gartner Group is simply a marketing tool, aimed at PHBs, with no real world (technical) credibility, and that Ms. DiDio simply provides the "analysis" that best suits the client who commissioned it.

  • You seemed to give a lot of space and deference to Laura Didio’s comments on Novell’s SuSe acquisition. She is also the only analyst whose comments you chose to report.
    Granted that Novell has not done very well in some areas, but Ms. Didio’s rant seems to be at odds to her very kind treatment of the SCOG.
    It would be helpful when publishing an article susch as this to include comments from other analysts to balance the sheet.

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