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Novell’s Sketchy Survival Strategy

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To fend off growing competition from Microsoft’s Windows 2000, Linux, and
other network operating environments, Novell has begun to articulate a new
product roadmap and “solutions” strategy.

Under its emerging “solutions” approach, Novell hopes to shore up
its market position by selling products and services that work with
each other to solve “business problems.” says Dr. Carl Ledbetter,
Novell’s senior vice president and CTO.

Meanwhile, the company will eliminate some existing offerings from
its catalog of over 160 products. The company hasn’t yet decided which
products to drop, Ledbetter says, “but it doesn’t make sense to keep
them all.”

Although some technical users might disagree, many industry observers think
that Novell needs to beef up its marketing pitch to business folks in order
to stay in the running in the networking game. The consensus isn’t quite as
clear, yet, that the “solutions” approach and current product roadmap
constitute the best ways to go.

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Many people find Novell’s concept of “solutions” vague or

“The strategy is still very vague in my opinion. What
products will have required services? Will customers need to have
consulting to install NetWare? Probably not – so is that a solution? I
think Novell has some more work to do in defining where products end
and where services begin. Having said that, though, focusing on
solutions instead of technology is a good mindset change for Novell,”
says John Enck, GartnerGroup’s VP and research director for server and
director strategies.

Novell officials have pointed to several upcoming products as
linchpins in the “solutions” strategy: eDirectory 8.7; a provisioning
toolkit codenamed Mercury (due out this summer); and three future
releases of NetWare, codenamed Nikoma, Uinta, and Hayden. Also in the
works are kits geared to provisioning solutions for customers and
university students. According to Skehan, Novell views financial
services as one promising market for customer provisioning. Meanwhile,
Novell is also eyeing possible toolkits for portal and BPM (business
process management) solutions.

Nikoma, the next major release of NetWare, will add a Web browser
interface, along with simplified iFolder and iPrint features.
Availability is slated for the first half of 2003.

Further out on Novell’s roadmap, Uinta and Hayden are both planned
for the second half of 2004. Novell has plans for Uinta as a 64-bit
server. Hayden, however, will operate on tiny blade servers.

Other future product releases from Novell, including eDirectory
8.7 and the provisioning toolkit, are much closer at hand. Scheduled
to enter open beta on April 15, 8.7 will add UDDI support, along with
a new management tool called iManager. “The goal is to use eDirectory
8.7 as a platform for building solutions,” Ledbetter says.

Ultimately, the solutions strategy should simplify some implementations
even more, according to Joe Skehan, senior product manager in Novell’s Net
Directory Services.

“First, we’re developing the solutions ourselves. Next, we’re beta testing
the solutions to find the flaws. Then, we’ll release the solutions as
products through customizable toolkits,” Skehan says.

“The only place NetWare is going is up,” declares Chris Stone, who
recently rejoined Novell as vice chairman following a three-year stint
founding Tilion.

According to Ed Anderson, director of product management for Novell’s Net
Directory Services, iManager will let network managers assign different
levels of directory access, based on user roles and identities. Novell will
use XML to enable remote management from both Web browsers and handheld

Meanwhile, Novell faces some big challenges in moving to attract
business-oriented buyers, while at the same time maintaining its
popularity with network managers and other technical folks. At the
same time, on the consulting side of the “solutions” equation, the
company is still in the process of integrating its own in-house
consulting arm with Cambridge Technology Partners (CTP), an outside
firm acquired by the company about a year ago.

“Novell has always provided technical excellence. In fact, some products
have been technically brilliant. For the past eight years, though, business
people have been making more and more of the IT buying decisions. Novell
has the products to do user authentication, provisioning, and
transformations, for example. This isn’t a message, however, that’s
understandable to business executives,” says Dan Kusnetsky, vice president
of systems software research for IDC.

Historically, Novell’s technical emphasis has extended to consulting, too.
“Novell’s consulting practice has traditionally been product-driven. ‘You
need i-Folder, we got i-Folder,” notes Laura Koetzle, an analyst at
Forrester Research.

Novell continues to target the technical market with its operational
consultants, according to Koetzle. Last month, though, Novell assigned some
former CTP staffers to work as “hunters,” drumming up new business among
corporate executives. “CTP previously used a ‘customer solutions’ approach
that worked out pretty well for them. Business decision-makers is where CTP
comes in,” she says.

Other analysts hold a variety of reservations over the product roadmap and
solutions strategy. Michael Hoch, an analyst at the Aberdeen Group, says he
thinks Novell might be competitively better off to use its eDirectory
product to sell solutions, instead of the other way around.

This story was first published on CrossNodes, an site.


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Jacqueline Emigh

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