Novell acquires PlateSpin: Will everything fall to the floor?

Novell acquires PlateSpin: Will everything fall to the floor?

Summary: Novell just announced an agreement to acquire PlateSpin, one of the players in the management of virtualized resources segment of the virtualization software market for $205 Million (see Sorting out the different layers of virtualization for more information on this market segment). One would have to wonder why Novell made this move since Novell already had a number of products in this space including Novell Orchestrator (see my review of this product in the post Novell’s Orchestrator).

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Novell just announced an agreement to acquire PlateSpin, one of the players in the management of virtualized resources segment of the virtualization software market for $205 Million (see Sorting out the different layers of virtualization for more information on this market segment). One would have to wonder why Novell made this move since Novell already had a number of products in this space including Novell Orchestrator (see my review of this product in the post Novell’s Orchestrator).

Let's take a moment to review the two companies

PlateSpin
Here's a segment of something I posted on PlateSpin a while ago:

I’ve followed PlateSpin for a number of years and have always found the pragmatic, productive approach taken by the company to be refreshing. I had an opportunity to speak with Stephen Pollack, Founder, CEO of PlateSpin, the other day. Here’s a quick summary of our conversation. PlateSpin offers products and services targeting the following systems management areas:

  • Data Center Relocation
  • Refresh and Consolidation
  • Workload Protection for Disaster Recovery
  • Provisioning
  • Application Lifecycle Optimization

What’s clear is that PlateSpin has evaluated the issues a virtualized data center creates and thought differently about the solution. In PlateSpin’s approach, only two tools are needed to accomplish all of these tasks - PowerRecon and PowerConvert.

 Novell
As with PlateSpin, I've written about Novell from time to time including the post Overview of Novell’s views on virtualization. Novell can be seen as one of the very early players in the area of storage virtualization and management of virtualized resources. It also offers a collaborative application, GroupWise and one of the leading Linux distributions, SUSE Linux Enterprise Software (SLES). Novell was one of the first to deploy the Xen virtual machine software in a commercially support Linux distribution and has been focused on a more virtualized environment for quite some time.

Snapshot analysis

Although Novell has been an established player in several of the virtualization software markets for quite a number of years, the company has a tendency to focus on its technology and not tell the market about what it's doing all that often. That's too bad because much of Novell's technology is quite interesting. The company has promised to address this issue time and again only to fall back to their quiet "you have to ask me to find out what I'm doing" approach to marketing.

At this point, Novell does not play in the access virtualization, application virtualization, portions of the processing virtualization, or network virtualization market. They have partnerships with quite a number of suppliers that address these markets and so, they can present a very comprehensive set of solutions. The company has also struck up a technology sharing, joint support partnership with Microsoft that has created quite a brouhaha in the Linux community that has not died down since the company made that move.

When faced with the challenges of extending its reach, most suppliers have to evaluate several paths and select the one that appears most promising. I suspect that folks in Novell's strategic planning group had to evaluate each of the following paths.

  • Should the company try to “engineer” its way into a broader portfolio of products and develop new products that help customers go in the direction they want to go? This approach takes time and costs quite a bit of money.
  • Should the company build a set strategic alliances with other companies to obtain the needed products and product expertise? This approach, when taken to an extreme, can result in the company taking an “industry followship” position and gathering the reputation that “we’re more me-too than anyone!” It can also mean that the company’s ability to innovate and compete are marginalized.
  • Should the company acquire companies that have developed the technology it needs, have the product strategists and engineering talent needed to get back in front of market trends.

It's not at all clear at this point, whether this acquistion was a good move. The key questions that remain to be answered are:

  • Will Novell allow the folks at PlateSpin to continue to innovate and support a broad range of operating environments and hardware platforms or lead them gently down the path to supporting only Novell SUSE and Microsoft's (one of Novell's key partners) Windows environments (thus destroying some of the value of the company)?
  • Will Novell disrupt some of its own engineering efforts in other areas and try to meld PlateSpin's technology in after the fact?
  • Will the Novell corporate culture feel comfortable to those who were part of PlateSpin or will it make them leave and take their innovative spirit elsewhere?

Novell has turned to acquistion many times in the past and had to deal with the issues of different development standards and corporate cultures in order to build a unified product portfolio. I won't drag out a list of acquitions but, needless to say, Novell has only had mixed success with this strategy. (Remember UnixWare, Novell's proposed solution to a fragmented UNIX market?) They've acquired companies at a premium price only to sell them at a lower price later. They've acquired companies that were innovators in key market segments and then let the people who created that success leave to found other companies.

I wish them well, but only time will answer those questions.

Topics: CXO, Hardware, Open Source, Software, Storage, Virtualization

About

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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3 comments
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  • clarification

    Platespin was founded in 2000 and the technology was created by an innovative group of six people, myself, Mark Verdun, David Richards, Bruno Baloi, Simon Howard and Dave Campbell.

    Be ware, the innovative spirit left Platespin long ago in 2002 just after the VC panic after 911 and before the IT Nucelear Winter, the VCs systematically drove us all out and brought in their guy who you interviewed and then they fully diluted all of us when they took the company back to an LTD form in 2003, its the same technology we invented and wrote in 2002, respun and split into 3 packages.

    Its also the same technology which won the Giga Research Award back in late 2002 as most promising ISV Product in its class.

    After all these years It is still very annoying to see people take credit for something they didn't "found" or even invent in the press. Rolling back an existing Inc. to an LTD to screw the original shareholders and founders does not give any one the right to use the title of founder.

    You can confirm this for yourself by going to www.archive.org and entering "www.platespin.com" into the Carnegie Melon Uni. wayback machine which is a research project which documents every public web page ever to be published on the worldwide web. The only single source of public truth.

    As for the technology, its rock solid and the new team at Platespin have done a good job to repackage and re-market and refine the code and then get it sold through the channels, and for this they should be congratulated.

    Novell, if they can keep their hands off it and as you say stay multiplatform has a real winner if they can let is run as a division...

    It's too bad that most of the people save 1 or 2 who invented wrote and initially brought Platespin's technology to market aren't reaping the rewards. That is the real crime.

    If you have any questions, I would be glad to answer them

    Kind regards

    Robert Reive
    Former Founding Chairman, CTO and inventor of Platespin
    +41 79 824 834 8
    Switzerland

    PS- You can check the Canadian Patent Database searching on Platespin or reive to find more of the truth there.
    robert.reive@...
    • Thanks for the information

      Robert,

      Thanks for your views and the information.

      Dan K
      dkusnetzky
  • RE: Novell acquires PlateSpin: Will everything fall to the floor?

    Having used PlateSpin products extensively, and being a PlateSpin partner, I would have to say it really doesn't matter much at this point what Novell does with them. PlateSpins key products (PowerRecon and PowerConvert) both have direct competitors from VMware now in the form of Capacity Planner and VMConverter.

    VMConverter is basically a free product, and does a very good job of converting most of a customers servers to VMware. Sure, if you're using something other than VMware you may still want to use PowerConvert, but let's face it, VMware has by far the biggest market share when it comes to virtualization.

    When it comes to PowerRecon vs. Capacity Planner, it's a little bit different. I definitely prefer PowerRecon over Capacity Planner, BUT many customers and business partners want to use Capacity Planner simply because it's a VMware product. Also, many vendors (IBM, HP, etc) will only support consolidation scenarios using Capacity Planner.

    In my opinion, being bought by someone is probably the best thing that could happen to them as their market share faced a serious threat moving forward.
    evan@...