Novell aims to remake image: Will it work?

Novell aims to remake image: Will it work?

Summary: The challenge for Bob Flynn, president and general manager of Novell, is that he has to convince his established base and new customers that the company has evolved even as it has been largely quiet for the last 18 months or so.


Novell is plotting a coming out party of sorts as it tries to reposition its brand, innovate and build on legacy products. The starter set for Novell's strategy will be launched at its BrainShare conference on Monday.

In a nutshell, Novell's plan is to focus more on secure mobility, collaboration, file and management services and endpoint application management. The challenge for Bob Flynn, president and general manager of Novell, is that he has to convince his established base and new customers that the company has evolved even as it has been largely quiet for the last 18 months or so.

Filr: The future of Novell?

Novell was acquired by The Attachmate Group, which is a holding company for Novell, Attachmate, NetIQ and SUSE, in April 2011. SUSE and Novell were separated and today Novell's core products revolve around collaboration (Groupwise), products like ZENworks Configuration Manager and NetWare and file management systems.

The first product for the next-gen Novell is called Filr, it's essentially a Dropbox-type app for the enterprise. "With Filr a user can access and manage files on any device any time in managed environment," said Flynn. Filr will be generally available next week in the second quarter.


We caught up with Flynn to talk shop. Here's the rundown:

  • Does the Novell brand hurt or help his cause? "The biggest challenge is the brand. It's a blessing and a curse and I have to help the marketplace understand this is a different Novell," said Flynn. "My job is to put the Novell brand back in the marketplace. It has taken a beating over the last 8 to 10 to 15 years."
  • Have customers stayed with Novell? Flynn didn't have any hard numbers and comparisons could be tricky given SUSE isn't part of Novell any more. In general, Flynn said Novell has stemmed defections.
  • Can Novell keep customers? Flynn added that the company's early moves after that Attachmate deal was to double the size of its sales force to about 150 to 200 people globally. In addition, Novell's product portfolio was trimmed so there's more focus today. "Job one was to focus on basic blocking and tackling," he said.
  • Will Novell innovate? That's the plan, said Flynn. He said that customers and Novell's partner base noted the company had core assets that could be a platform for new products. Mobility and Filr are the first efforts to display innovation from Novell. Flynn added that 30 percent of Novell's engineering resources are focused on new products. That percentage is likely to go higher.
  • Can Novell woo new customers? Flynn said Novell has been marketing to its existing customer base with everything from airport advertising to customer sessions and roadshows. In April, Novell plans to begin pitching new customers beyond its established base. "We've been solely focused on the customer base and now will look to expansion," he said.
  • Should we buy that idea that this new Novell is forming? Flynn acknowledged that Novell will have skeptics. "We have to get word back out in the market and deliver proof points," said Flynn. "I can market my brains out, but we need to deliver." Novell will have to deliver case studies, proof points and real metrics to show it is back on track.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Collaboration, Mobility, Networking

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  • Novell? Still exists?

    There's no room for a legacy PC software company in this day and age. Too bad they're not associated with SUSE anymore, they could have at least build a new fresh tablet GUI for that OS, and entered the market as an alternative to Android. No, Novell's engineers are way too long in the tooth to actually provide current solutions to current problems in the world today.
    • Novell is Back, Baby! Better than ever before!

      Know Thy Industry, Anonymole.

      Have another look at Novell. Check out Filr - it's as important a leap forward as the LAN itself was back in 1983.

      And look at GroupWise - the very best messaging and collaboration system out there. It's still the most secure. That's why the most secure agencies around the world still depend on it......

      Far from irrelevant legacy systems, Novell has reinvented and reinvigorated itself. The new energies are catching. I think you'll be impressed with what you find.

      Check out the new Novell. Bob Flynn has done an incredible job so far. The best is yet to come.
  • Novell is one of the great, legacy software brands

    Bob Flynn is a great leader. Novell now has the opportunity to make a great comeback.
  • I am very skeptical in a Novell comeback...

    While I would like to see Novell comeback strong, I was very disappointed in Novell's engineering and customer support with OES-L (their Linux/NetWare mix). We had nothing but problems with their client software, their server software, and even with NDS, Their responses to our problems were frankly unacceptable, we had data loss, and countless outages. We worked with them for about 3 years to make it better, and got nowhere. We moved 20,000 desktop file sharing off of Novell to NetApp and Windows. Our users are beginning to like us again. Novell cost us a lot of money, time, sleep, family life, ..etc. Our IT executives was thrilled to see us move off of Novell.

    I want nothing more than competition in the IT industry, but it will take a great deal to earn my trust again. I am sure that I am not the only one.
  • Go Big Red N

    Come on ZDnet, at least get the facts right. Novell's Open Enterprise server runs on top of Suse Linux Enterprise Server. Netware is dead, or at least being phased out. They are still supporting it for some time, but encouraging their customers to migrate to SLES. There is still plenty of Netware out there, but migrating to OES on Suse Linux was great. I find it amazing how Novell migrated all their systems to the Linux platform and it feels like it always has and run fantastic. eDir blows away AD to this day and Novell was the one that invented Dropbox type systems with their iFolder product, so many years ago. I would imagine this the Filr is the updated iFolder and will have to do a little more research on that. Hang in ther Big Red N and keep all those brilliant ideas coming so Microsoft has something to shoot for!
  • Like so many technology firms, Novell is a shadow of its former self

    There are many reasons for this and those of us who have been in the industry for decades can point to any number of missteps that leave Novell where it is today.

    It is the nature of the industry and, as advances in information technology continue to accelerate, long established companies like Novell will continue to grow too big and too unresponsive to changing markets to keep up.

    Sooner or later our institutions, like ourselves, fall by the wayside and die. Whether Novell as an entity continues to survive remains to be seen to be seen but Novell will never again be the powerhouse it once was.

    Just another casualty among some great names in the industry from not all that many years ago.
    M Wagner
    • Never say "Never"

      I distinctly recall the 1997 bail-out of Apple by Microsoft. Apple was dead, for all intents and purposes. There is some speculation that the following day, Bill Gates was on the phone screaming to his broker "I said SNAPPLE!!!!".

      Point is, if a company is focused and it innovates and adapts, it has a future. Look at Apple today. One year ago, it made more money on their iPhone than Microsoft did with its entire operation.

      Novell did invent Dropbox type services with iFolder. Filr is not just "the new iFolder", it's taken that to a whole new level. It's advanced file storage and sharing to a point that is not only badly needed in today's mobile world, but that also sets a framework to evolve with the needs of the future.

      Stay tuned. You're going to see amazing things from Novell.
      • There aren't too many Apples . . .

        Apple did indeed make a comeback - but it required not only a bailout, but also bringing back Steve Jobs. And of course several lines of beautiful looking consumer-oriented products.

        So yes - consumer-oriented hardware is a big hit. People like new shiny things. But last I checked, Novell was making business-oriented software.

        There aren't too many Apples out there. I do consider it a rather exceptional case.

        Sure, Novell will survive as much as IBM still does, but I don't think it's gonna be the next Apple.
      • The real question

        is if Novell has their own Jobs to get them from the brink.
        Michael Alan Goff
  • A long long way to go

    Novell is a few generations behind. The frustration experienced by using for example the Groupwise 7 e-mail/calendar/organiser is enough to chase away most people. I described the shift to Groupwise 7 from Groupwise 6 at work this year as a move from the stone age to the bronze age of computing. Network user account tools are also quite outdated. Novell needs to revamp absolutely everything to get back in the game.
    • Groupwise 7?

      Groupwise 7? Do you still use Windows 98? Groupwise is up to version 2012 and looks great with new features other email clients don't have,...yet
  • Novell?

    A company that seems to always be run by stone age CEO's with Stone age ideas. Legacy = Novell They have missed oppourtunity time and time again its really pathetic. if they would have GPL'ed and ported NDS to Linux we would be running NDS instead of Active directory and they would have made millions in selling services but nope they want ot stick to the dated model of pricing their software like its still the 80ies. They could turn it around if they would wisen up get some people that know something about marketing and use the Novell brand like a sledge hammer.
  • NDS is now eDirectory

    Yes, eDir runs as part of Open Enterprise Server, which runs on Suse Linux. You are sounding pretty "legacy" yourself! ; )
    • Who runs Suse in the enterprise?

      Not a distro i would ever recommend a business use for serious work Ubuntu and Redhat are king. Should get out in the enterprise some.
      • Who runs SUSE in the enterprise?

        I have worked at several places that use SUSE. I would also suggest your check your facts. I believe SUSE is the second most deployed server OS behind Redhat. Ubuntu is a distant third. We are talking servers, runlevel 3 not desktops in runlevel 5.
      • Don't be clueless

        SUSE had an enterprise worthy distro long before Red Hat. It's still the dominant player on the high end vs. Red Hat. SLES is (in general) more well thought out than Red Hat. I'll go so far as to say that Red Hat didn't have anything near enterprise worthy until RHEL 5, and even then, there were problems. Red Hat has been sending mixed messages choosing technologies and then abandoning them, changing their mind, etc... It has NOT been an easy ride for those using RHEL in the enterprise. SLES has been much smoother. So.. I do encourage you to do more research before saying things that are pretty far away from the truth.
  • Novell is a relic...

    I feel sufficiently qualified to make the claim that Novell is now relic from the past. I built my first NetWare server for a client in 1985 and supported Novell products for over twenty years. But there comes a time when a business either addresses the changes in the market or it sinks beneath the waves. Novell failed under Mr. Ray Noorda in the mid-1990s to thwart Microsoft Windows Server NT and lost the application server market. Novell held on to NetWare too long and waited too long to make eDirectory should also have "open-sourced" eDirectory when it decided to become a Linux distro provider with SUSE. To his credit, Dr. Eric Schmidt, Novell's CEO, realized that Zenworks was a good product idea and pushed its development. Dr. Schmidt also forced Novell developers to abandon IPX/SPX and get on with TCP/IP...a bit too late but it had to be done. Novell lost a great opportunity to head in a new direction when Chris Stone came back for a second stint at Novell...unfortunately Mr. Jack Messman, Novell's CEO, could not be pushed aside along with the Cambridge Technology Partners "mafia" which helped to ruin the company. Then cloud computing arrived and Novell had some promising technology it acquired with PlateSpin and figured it could become an "arms merchant" in the coming cloud wars but that failed to materialize in a meaningful way. By then, Novell's last CEO, Mr. Ron Hovsepian, proved not to be up to the task of charting a new course for Novell even after the company benefited tremendously by its famous marketing/technical/licensing cooperation agreement agreement with once former enemy Microsoft. Today, aside from Novell's remaining legacy products, I don't see how a business can "disappear" for 18 months and hope to make a comeback. Come back to what?
    • Reminds me of the people i have interviewed

      That still have CNE on their resume.
      • RE: CNE on their resume

        Having a CNE on their resume, that probably means you should stand up, take off your hat and learn a thing or two.
        Having years of experience means he/she know how the business work, an "old-dog" of this game, how could that possibly be a negative? Unless of course you are offering a horrible wage under a pretentious title.
    • Agree

      I totally agree. I've been doing Novell products since 1995 and they were a great product (Netware-Groupwise), but they never updated to change with the times and I reluctantly bid farewell to Novell and switched to other more modern products. Had they made any move at all to stay up to date I would have gladly stuck with them. Heck I had servers that hadn't been rebooted in two years! But no, they stuck with the same old so they lost a loyal customer forever.