Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 7th Nov 2006 22:56 UTC
Novell and Ximian "Often cast as the peacemaker in free software disputes, Bruce Perens is on the warpath. When we caught up with him, he wasn't in a mood to be charitable to Novell. On Friday the Utah company, which markets the SuSE Linux distribution, revealed that it was entering into a partnership with Microsoft. Redmond would pay Novell an undisclosed sum in return for Novell recognizing Microsoft's intellectual property claims. Novell received a 'Covenant' promising that it wouldn't be sued by Microsoft."It's a case of 'Damn the people who write the software'", he told us. "Novell is in a desperate position - it has a smaller share of the market than Debian,"" he told The Register. Update: Novell responds to community's questions: here, here and here. Update 2: Havoc Pennington's take.
Permalink for comment 179842
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
Member since:

I wasn't around much novell networks when the 'thing' was netware. I did hear about netware losing market share and there were several problems surrounding the netware protocol. Everybody seemed to be very disappointed at what happened and switched to other protocols. Microsoft did support the NetWare protocol in several of their windows versions, yet novell seemed to fail anyway.

I was, in fact I made a lot of money selling it. And the Novell guys scoffed when Microsoft stated their aspirations for NT ever becoming a strong platform in the server room. Many revisionists like to claim Microsoft somehow illegally manipulates the law every time they knock off a strong competitor, but that ignores the fact that many of those former number ones (Netware, Netscape, WordPerfect, Lotus 123, Real... the list goes on) basked in the glory of their marketshare, considering themselves untouchable, and scoffed at the thought of Microsoft ever knocking them out. Sometimes companies fail because of bad decision making, it isn't *always* Microsoft's fault, though it's popular to criticize them.

When Novell bought SuSE, first thing came to mind, "Oh, they're trying to recover from their loss by buying a company." Before, SuSE was really good, but I knew tons of people switching from SuSE because of Novell purchasing them. Everyone was like, "Oh god, they're going to ruin another product." Which in turn has become true from the recent events.

Fair enough, Novell's track record with acquisitions is less than stellar but at the same time those acquisitons were often made as part of a desperation maneuver to counter Microsoft rather than an intelligent, well-thought out strategy.

Suse was actually a smart acquisition, despite what the Ximian guys like to think, it became the basis for their enterprise platform and brought them existing marketshare as the number 2 distribution. Suse certainly gained a much higher profile than it had, and the latest versions of both corporate SLED and community openSuse are among the most popular distros out there. Ironically their only serious misstep so far with Suse was the package management fiasco in Suse 10.1, which was a very public symptom of their mono campaign, and maybe is a first step towards destoying the distro.

Okay, next we have Novell funded projects and funding in to mono. Great. I'm just curious what they get out of it. If you go to the mono page, you can pay for support, which is cheap. No real type of profit here. The largest consumer I can think of is the makers of Second Life.

Novell's original gameplan with mono was to create a .Net compatible framework that they mistakenly saw as one of the biggest obstacles to enterprise adoption of linux. The idea was that if mono succeeded it would lead to enterprise license sales.

With mono's licensing Novell clearly reserves the right to license it in a non-GPL manner (contributors are required to assign copyright for that purpose), so maybe they're making some sort of licensing fee from other vendors but if they are, I'm not aware of it and I don't think anyone else is.

When they fired the CEO and hired a new one. I did listen to the conference, and one of the main reasons they canned him is the lack of emergence in to open source. One can't completely blame the CEO, but there always has to be a fall guy.

Novell's biggest problem was their inability to reinvent their salesforce to match their new aggressive opensource strategy. They had an old-school sales force that was used to collecting contract renewals for legacy Netware installations and was utterly unable to find this new market for linux customers, falling back instead on transparently migrating them to linux via OES in such a manner that customers didn't need to know if they were running linux or netware. They talked the talk and stepped up with the development resources, but they utterly failed in terms of marketing and sales support. Novell has vision but lacks the willingness to take the risks and make the investments to follow through entirely.

As for the morale, I had a buddy that worked at Novell last year and left after a year or so to work at another vendor because of the utter lack of sales strategy. He said that most of the sales force he worked with, particularly on the enterprise side, were 10+ year employees killing time waiting for their packages. Novell did pay well, and had some decent perks, among them the fact that no-one left empty handed after being laid off or downsized.

What does this history tell me? Novell has been struggling for years trying to make a profit. Personally I'd be curious what an investigation on the reported profits would result.

See above paragraph. Nothing to investigate in the profits other than the same backdated options BS all of the tech companies are going through. It's simply bad management leading to minimal growth and reduced profitability. Which is why the new CEO took the easy route and signed a deal with MS that at least guarantees decent cash flow for Novell over the next five years. I wouldn't be surprised if he was put in that role specifically to close that deal, and leaves within the next year or two clutching a very lucrative seven-figure golden parachute.

** please full in the history where needed, I don't look at every detail in novell**

You should. It's an epic story with heroes and villains, drama and comedy, glorious victories and tragic downfalls. But I hope this helps.

Edit: One of many typos.

Edited 2006-11-08 06:45

Reply Parent Score: 5