From the reserved seating up near the front row, I had a pretty good seat for Jack Messman’s keynote address here at BrainShare. What I found most interesting in the address was the emergence of two main focus areas for the vendor: open source/Linux and identity.
Apart from the opening video which branded Novell as “Open – Secure – Global,” much of the focus was spent on outlining Novell’s increasing focus on the two core areas of open source and identity. Neither are surprising from a product perspective: with the purchases of Ximian and SuSE, Novell remade itself into a major open source player and its heritage from the NetWare days is strongly rooted to identity.
But what is surprising is those two terms omit: collaboration. Many of the people on stage yesterday during the customer panel (from Grainger, Wyeth, MLP, Frankfurt Airport, Comair, etc) were very large (tens of thousands of seats) Groupwise and Netmail customers. Given the importance of the Groupwise / NetMail/Hula product lines to Novell’s business I must confess to being a bit surprised that the Open Source / Identity branding makes no reference to collaboration, but one assumes that Novell sees identity as a more strategic play.
Other thoughts and reactions:
Groupwise/Netmail Support – attempting to quell Notes-is-dead type concern amongst its customers and partners for the Groupwise and Netmail product lines (concerns actively fostered by competitors), Novell today promised 10 year and 5 year support plans, respectively.
Novell Linux Small Business Suite – It seems as if Novell and Microsoft have been drinking the same SMB Kool-Aid here. While a bit underemphasized here, the SMB solution is a desktop to server solution aimed at small to midsized business with a need for basic collaboration, desktop and file/print services. Why none of the SMB suites include Asterisk yet, I can’t really figure out.
JBoss as a Strategic Partner – Perhaps the most interesting news to me was the news that Novell was tightening its previous support-only relationship with JBoss to include code donations (from the Extend suite, I believe) and engineering time. One wonders whether this was done in response to customers asking for this type of functionality or as an RFP response to Red Hat’s Jonas/Netscape code offerings. Either way, JBoss is a platform with a great deal of momentum so this is a very solid move for Novell.
Data Center / High Performance Computing – Also of interest was Messman’s focus on areas where Linux has had some success (Beowulf clusters and the like), but is not perceived to be the market leader: high end needs. Touting the OSs ability to run on platforms from x86 to the mainframe, Messman said Novell has ambitions of pushing Linux upmarket and realize new opportunities therein.
Novell Market Start – One of the critical concerns, of course, for Linux as a platform is application availability. The irony of this is that there are literally tens of thousands of available applications for the platform; the catch is that many if not most are not suitable for enterprise use given the lack of any support options. With a combination of certification, cobranding, and distribution Novell is attempting to give open source projects new reach into the enterprise with this program. Conceptually, it’s a great idea, but it will depend on execution and the costs of application identification and certification.
Customer References – One of the rewarding things about the customers selected for the customer panel and other appearances was, paradoxically, the fact that they were *not* the typical Morgan Stanley, Charles Schwab, etc trotted out by the likes of BEA, IBM or Sun. To be sure, folks like Grainger are very, very large enterprises in their own right, but these customers’ needs and requirements yesterday appeared to be slightly more realistic than is usual. The one thing I found curious was the prominent placement Comair enjoyed – they were a featured video during the keynote; while I believe that the systems failure was on applications managed by a third party, there were a lot of people peeved at Comair’s systems last Christmas.
Customer Questions – I had the opportunity to ask the customer panel several questions yesterday (kudos to Novell for allowing for so much Q&A time), but among them were how many of you have looked seriously at Mono or Solaris 10. Pretty much zero response on both. Not surprising given the nature of the audience, but interesting nonetheless.