Why Novell

I’ve had some Novell posts creeping into my blog recently and you can expect that to continue.

I’m not even sure how many people have even heard of Novell anymore, but at one time they were a pioneer in networked computing. With NetWare and eDirectory (or Novell Directory Services) they were well ahead of Microsoft (and in some ways, still ahead of Microsoft) for networked enterprises.

With Microsoft now firmly in the “no one gets fired for using Microsoft” area of enterprise computing which IBM enjoyed back in the 80s and early 90s, Novell has steadily seen its star fall and in 2011 was consumed by the Attachmate Group and taken private, stripped of SUSE (now a separate entity within the Attachmate Group), divested of some other technologies (many of which were moved over to NetIQ, another Attachmate Group entity), and refocused on their core competencies.

At least that is how the story is being told now.

At Martin Luther College we still use Novell NetWare 6.5 as the backbone of both our networked fileĀ  and identity management/authentication services. Our main file server was put into production the summer I began working in Network Services … 2005. During that time it has been rock-solid. While you won’t find their name splashed across all of the latest IT websites nor talked about with excited tones around Twitter, the technology itself servers a vital purpose and is incredibly stable.

But why am I talking about a company who, admittedly, had its 15 minutes of fame 20+ years ago?

Old Technologies

While we might want to talk wistfully about all of the latest technologies and dream of a future where we can just beam everything back-and-forth without needing to kill trees, those days are not here yet and they might never be here either.

There is still a need for managed file serving, printing, directories, access management, etc. Those days are not behind us, they are here right now and the need to be able to handle all of those needs for differing groups of people still needs to be done. While we can’t ignore the future, we also can’t deny the present because you’ll end up with a lot of really ticked off people.

With iPrint, Open Enterprise Server, Identity Manager, and other “old” technologies you get some really compelling options to handle those needs. I’ll even admit that I want to spin up an instance of GroupWise just to see what it is like! In the rush to do away with the “old” maybe we’ve left some good things behind … or maybe those old things have been keeping up and we’ve been too jaded to see it!

New Technologies

Maybe even better than the old technologies is where Novell is heading with their new products. Filr is the one I really have my eyes on at the moment. The idea of adding Dropbox-like capabilities to our internal file servers is almost too much to pass up! With their iPrint Appliance, mobile printing is brought to our old, steady, stable of laser printers. Novell is offering the ability to take us from the past into the future of a mobile, collaborative technology without the need to completely rely on third party providers to do so.

I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on some TTP presentation recently and the roadmaps are looking good as well. I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of Novell and NetIQ and I think SUSE has really taken off recently. I’m watching what SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 is going to bring to the table.

More Options

Maybe most of all, I want Novell to succeed because they stand as an alternative to much larger, more entrenched players (namely Microsoft). Novell has a name which has been around since the very late 70s and has a rich history.

Their technologies also tend to “play nicely with others” better than their competitors. Open Enterprise Server has SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as its base operating system. Their appliances are all based off of SLES. They tend to try to accommodate Microsoft along with open source technologies. They want you to be able to use a piece of Novell technology, if you want to, with your own.

It is an irrational reason to cheer for a company. If Company A has great technology you shouldn’t necessarily cheer for Company B and Company C just to keep competitors in the market but that is what I want. I want a strong, vibrant market surrounding all sectors of information technology so that all of the players are being pressured or else we will end up with stagnant, terrible solutions to real problems we need to be solving.

Concluding Thoughts

So that is why I am talking about Novell. We are planning the rollout of more Novell technologies in the future and I hope to be able to continue to play around with what they offer along with their sister-companies.

I fully understand that the name “Novell” is essentially dead within the realm of the “it crowd”, but I implore people to come and take a look again and what Novell is offering and where the company is going. I think, right now, there is a lot to like and the future looks like there will be even more to come.

8 thoughts on “Why Novell”

  1. I’ll admit that it is for completely selfish reasons that I want to look into Filr and the new iPrint … mainly so that I have access away from the office. The fact is that our 8 year-old NetWare servers have been running, non-stop, for those 8 years and we barely touch them but for configuration changes on our end.

    We’ve been very happy.

  2. Excellent perspective, Bob! I started as a Novell consultant back in 1993, and somehow ended up with 9 employees and Canada’s only Novell Platinum Partner! It’s been a tough road, seeing so many customers abandon this great technology; in most cases, the reasons are not even technical. OES and GroupWise still, to this day, keep us extremely busy, as does ZENworks.

    This year, the release of Filr and the iPrint Appliance have allowed us to open doors to customers who long ago left Novell, or newer companies that never even knew them! Both of these products absolutely address important business needs and integrate natively into MS/AD environments, so as long as customers can be open-minded, they see the value of these solutions. As a long-time Novell junkie, I can tell you that it’s great to see new customers looking at Novell, again!

    I’m also seeing a lot of interest in their File Management Suite: File Reporter, Storage Manager and Dynamic File Services. Despite the trend in recent years to web-based collaboration tools (ie. SharePoint), even analysts have noticed that not only are network file systems not disappearing, they’re GROWING! These products have not received the attention they deserve, but I find that as I talk about them to prospects, I am getting a lot of wide eyes and nods: “Yes, yes! That’s what we need!”

    The best line I’ve heard about Novell since the Attachmate acquisition: “Big enough to matter, small enough to care”. That is absolutely true! I am very well connected at Novell, from developers to product managers, and I know all the executives, and I can tell you that their commitment to the products and the customers is phenomenal.

    So like you, I believe Novell’s future looks very good, and also encourage folks to take a look at what they’re doing. They may just be very surprised.

  3. The File Management Suite is another thing I need to look into. I think part of it is that I never even took a close look at what Novell was offering before, but now that I have, I see so much value in what they are providing along with where they are going. The Xen images for Filr released yesterday have me excited because it means I have a quick way to test that out.

    I will be testing it out.

    This week is just became apparent we are going to need to look into ZENworks for management and reporting on machines, and with the mobile side of things coming along too the idea of a unified management console for everything is compelling to say the least.

    What I am hearing and seeing gives me a ton of hope for the future and I think Novell is positioned to not take the world by storm, necessarily, but provide tools to do things others really don’t seem all that interested in.

  4. On my opinion, Novell offers the best products on the market for server. Since the last six months, I heard a lot of good comments about Novell products but when it was the period of transition between Netware to Suse, where were you to announce your products (tv adds, sponsors, …) During this time, Microsoft did a lot of publicity about Windows Server. I think Novell have miss a good opportunity to show his products. I hope I will see in a near future publicity about Novell OES and Zenworks and Novell should give free T-shirts, Coat like Microsoft for many persons… A lot of persons I know are thinking that Novell is not on the market anymore because they see none publicity… My heart is for Novell products, so I’m not the person to convince.
    My Equipment is 30 servers Linux OES Suse, 6 servers Zenworks, 1 server groupwise, 1 server datasync

    1. If things progress I think we might see more form Novell in the area of advertisement, but I think that is probably a secondary concern in the long run. Get the technology where it needs to be and start cultivating relationships on a more personal, non-advertisement level to build a base of boosters who are going to do the heavy lifting of not just speaking out about the great products, but also having experience using them and being able to help others. That’s a key.

      Also, the next few years are providing a tiny little window of opportunity to gain a foothold in server rooms again as the uncertainty around Microsoft with the seemingly massive changes coming with a new CEO. It will be interesting to see if IT starts to fragment a the mobile space has. I certainly hope it does.

  5. Excellent comments! As a graduate of (Dr.) Martin Luther College, I’m really happy to read your perspective. We have used Novell technologies since the early days as well. I actually got choked up when I turned off my last Netware server years ago.

    I fully agree that Novell hit bottom and is hopefully on the way back up. We have been running Zenworks for years and now rely very heavily on ZCM. All of our workstations and servers are patched with ZCM Patch Management. GroupWise has delivered hundreds of thousands of messages over the years. The faculty phones all sync wonderfully using Novell Data Synchronizer.

    Almost all of our servers are SuSE Linux based and we love the OES enhancements. Vibe is growing more and more popular every year in our building and we are currently moving our 50,000 documents into Vibe. Filr is getting more and more use and I just finished installing the iPrint appliance.

    I cringe when people tell me “we used to have Novell” when they really mean “We no longer use Netware”. I tell them we no longer use Windows 3.11 either.

    We need to keep getting the word out about all the great *NEW* Novell products out there!

    Matt Schlawin
    Fox Valley Lutheran High School
    Appleton, WI

  6. Mr. Schlawin! I think you have a transplant from Network Services over there at Fox Valley teaching right now! Good to hear from you, expect to have an email from me soon as well because I think we have a lot to talk about (looking at the NetWare transition right now).

    You are pretty much running what I want to roll out over the next year and it makes me happy to hear someone else having success in WELS. I will be in touch soon about that.

    There is some really great stuff out now and coming out soon and so far the people I have been able to talk to have been really responsive. I’ve also watched changes being made from requests not sent from me, but from people I converse with. That is highly encouraging. Big enough to get stuff done, but small enough to still care.

    Thank you to everyone for reading and responding. Keep it coming!

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