Business Technology

The Futures of Novell and SUSE

I have no insider information, but as a heavy user of both Novell and SUSE technologies I do have an interest in what happens with both of the companies. A large portion of what I do every day replies on Novell and SUSE to function and any major change for either would mean many headaches and late nights as we work to move to different platforms.

No matter how well-intentioned both sides might be at the onset of any merger, there is going to come a time when the numbers are going to be looked at and a return on the initial investment is going to be expected. If there is no return, or the return is not big enough, then decisions are going to be made to rectify that. Many times that can manifest in layoffs and products being discarded into the heap of history.

I don’t know how well the Novell and SUSE portions of The Attachmate Group are doing, but the idea that some very good products could be discarded is disheartening. I don’t think it is a secret that Novell had been struggling mightily before its purchase, and I don’t know how the company is really doing now but I’m fairly certain that it is probably not as large as it was when initially purchased. SUSE has been spun off (which I think was a net win for everyone) and some of the products once shepherded by Novell are now under the care of NetIQ (which might make sense to some), which leaves Novell with only a portion of its prior product portfolio. A smaller company might be more focused, but it also leaves it a smaller company.

My fears for the two main companies I work with on a daily basis are distinct:

  • For Novell, I fear resources continuing to get split off into other groups. I fear Open Enterprise Server getting tossed onto the back burner just as the roadmap has some excellent things being added (not to mention what SUSE is doing with SLES in the future). I fear that the work to consolidate ZENworks into a single, coherent platform is going to get slowed down just when it looks like a product that could be used to manage the entire swath of computing platforms from desktops to phones and everything in between. I fear Vibe continuing to be ignored and Service Desk never getting a fair shake. Some of these things might have happened anyway, but now the fear is there are the surface.
  • For SUSE, I fear any hint of the company keeping things for themselves and retreating from the open source community. I fear technology becoming secondary to short-term profits. I fear SUSE not continuing to push forward as fast as possible as more uncertainty comes into the pictures again. The splitting of Novell and SUSE has been nothing but a boon for SUSE as it has been able to forge ahead with its own identity and I fear it being swallowed again or its distinctive brand being lessened.
  • For the entire purchase, I’m a little fearful of the companies being public again. Being a public company is not always a positive thing for the products being worked on. Just this week HP announced a splitting of the company into two distinct pieces, Dell has gone private, Microsoft has a new CEO, IBM has a new CEO, and Oracle will have a couple of new CEOs. There is a lot of uncertainty in technology right now and I fear this is another small part of that.

Is it all doom and gloom? Not necessarily. I think that if this turns out similar to the The Attachmate Group changes, then it could be an overall good thing for everyone involved, but any merger-and-aquisition is difficult and this one will be no different.

I wish everyone the best of luck and look forward to both SUSE and Novell being a major partner at Martin Luther College.