I suspect a good portion of MSPmentor's readers built and supported Novell NetWare networks back in the 1990s. Fast forward to the present, and Novell BrainShare starts today in Salt Lake City, Utah. Bloggers from our sister site, The VAR Guy, are at the conference, covering Novell's channel strategy for integrators and VARs. But back here on MSPmentor I have to wonder: How many MSPs really care about Novell these days?

Most of us are familiar with Novell's dramatic rise and fall from grace. Around 1992, Novell NetWare held about 65 percent of the network operating system (NOS) market. To make a long story short, Novell failed to execute on several acquisitions (WordPerfect and Unix Systems Labs come to mind), and Novell also failed to develop a credible application server story to counter Windows NT in the 1990s.

Still, today's Novell has evolved quite a bit. Plenty of VARs are rediscovering Novell in the SUSE Linux world, where a software appliance strategy seems to be gaining momentum. Thought the effort is a work in progress: Linux is only about 20 percent of Novell's business, and the other 80 percent is a hodgepodge of legacy software, services and emerging opportunities like Intelligent Workload Management.

Some investors, such as Elliott Associates, think Novell still isn't living up to its promise -- prompting an unsolicited takeover bid for Novell (which Novell's board rejected on March 20).

Emerging Questions and Answers

Generally speaking, I don't think Novell is on the radar in the managed services market. Most MSPs seem to be preoccupied with established opportunities (remotely managing Windows desktops, servers and network infrastructure) and emerging opportunities (cloud services integration, unified communications, and SaaS question marks).

Where does Novell fit in for MSPs? I really don't have an answer yet. But some clues are emerging. Keep an eye on three emerging Novell developments:
  1. Novell Pulse: A real-time communications and social messaging platform for enterprises, Pulse is expected to grab the spotlight quite a bit at BrainShare. I'm curious to see if/how Novell rallies partners around Pulse.
  2. Novell Cloud Security Service: Novell is expected to wrap security and identity management around the cloud in May or June 2010. Novell previewed the cloud security effort during the Parallels Summit (February 2010). Identity management and cloud security seem tailor made for MSPs. But will Novell reach out to managed services providers?
  3. Novell SUSE Studio: Quite a few ISVs are embracing SUSE Studio to write software appliances. Some of those appliances have implications for MSPs. For instance, a Groundwork Open Source appliance supports remote systems management. And a Zmanda appliance supports on-premises backup and potentially online backup to a range of cloud services.
Still, I need to keep the above items in perspective. I know plenty of VARs still care about Novell. But I wonder: How many MSPs even know BrainShare is this week?

P.S. -- I miss Ray Noorda.

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