Novell too nice for own good

Watch out for the steamroller

In the cutthroat, fast-moving world of IT, you can rely on Novell to do three things:


  1. Come up with essentially better, less buggy technology
  2. Get it all working together, usually with competitors' technology too
  3. Bugger up the marketing, so ensuring that it will never getting the coverage or usage it deserves

Eric Schmidt knows this and has consistently tried to reverse the situation, with limited results. He was up to it again at the company's Brainshare conference in Nice this year. We've got no real focus, we're not telling people what we can actually do, why aren't selling more of this bloody things? (I paraphrase of course).

Except this time, Eric took the bull by the horns and actually provided a focus for Novell's selling teams. It's called One Net and it takes the bigger view, incorporating Netware, eDirectory, single sign-on - all that stuff that it's been harping on about, individually, for years.

One Net is the big idea, it's a philosophy, it's just what we need.

Predictably, Microsoft has looked at it, liked it and copied it. Admittedly, it has a slightly different approach and, of course, it's nowhere near ready - but then how else could it have stolen Novell's thunder so quickly? So up pops Billy Boy Gates announcing Dot Net (sounds like a suspiciously similar name to us) and the idea gets plastered all over the press.

Unless Novell wants another re-run of Netware vs Windows, eDirectory vs Active Directory, it will have to put its foot down on the marketing pedal.

So we had a brief chat with Novell's Corporate Business Strategist in the UK, Peter Joseph, at the Networks NEC show to find out what was going on.

First of all, no, Novell isn't slowly dumping NetWare. NetWare is, and always will be a "core product".

Yes, the big message is the thing. "We not going to just be talking about single sign-on or what eDirectory can do - we're selling the whole package," he tells us. "Novell will produce one big solution that will work for everything. Active Directory, for example, is only usable if it is attached to Windows 2000. Now, we're not going to set up a system that can be used only by journalists..."

Why not, we ask. Sounds quite nice. "Because we will be able to define exactly who can do what on the system." The applaudable philosophy is that flexibility is king. This one system will be capable of changing and growing however you want it to and will also take whatever non-Novell kit you want along with it. Any takers yet? "Yes, there's an arm of the Provident that has taken it, and - er - " [looks at PR woman, she looks at him]. "I can get you a list if you want it," she offers.

But what about Microsoft's Dot Net concept - ASP, apps over the Web - doesn't this kinda override the Novell message? "No, you see, because what will ASPs use to organise their information? eDirectory is the only thing that can deal with that amount of information efficiently." This is most likely true. But has Novell given up on chasing the lion's share of the market? "I'm not sure what you mean." Has Novell decided to only go for the big companies, to be entirely coporate? "No, we'll chase consumers as well as corporates."

We ask if there have been changes in the Novell sales team setup, hierachy to reflect this new marketing approach. Blank faces probably means no. But there is a catchy phrase, surely? A tag line? No? There must be. "Well, we do have 'Power to change'." Uh-huh. And with that he was whisked off to give a talk about Novell's new wonderful strategy behind a ten-foot red wall.

So what do we think? We think that Novell has come up with some great technology, that it's philosophy is solid, its flexibility admirable and Microsoft will run over it, again, except this time in two smaller steamrollers.

For heaven's sake Novell, stop being so understanding and nice. Don't rely on people having commonsense - they don't. Tell people that your setup is quite simply the only one worth having. Tell companies they will go bust if they don't get it. And tell them that Microsoft's offering is unfinished, unstable, untested and narrow-minded. Kick Microsoft while it's down because it will stab you in the back given half a chance. And most of all, do and say all this with religious zeal. Then you'll have your One Net.

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