Novell chief lashes Forrester report

Announcing the launch of a "cut-down, small-business version of NetWare" within 30 days, Novell's new CEO has attacked an independent report suggesting that Novell is "no longer a strategic network vendor".
Written by Guy Kewney, Contributor

The report by US IT analyst Forrester Research was condemned as "garbage" by Joe Marengi, who has taken over as the man in charge following the departure of Bob Frankenberg.

"[It was] basically our own fault," Marengi said. "We have not made information available to people, and it's hurting us. But it is simply nonsense; I can give you a point by point rebuttal of that report, and pick out the BS from it, and we've already sat the report writer down and explained what's really going on."

What's going on is apparently a lot of product development, little of which has been leaked to the world of industry observers. The increasing success of Windows NT in the corporate market has provoked more than just Forrester to speculate that the network operating system market pendulum is swinging away from the market leader. But Marengi says all the figures show this not to be true. He says Novell is indeed "at the crossroads" and has to "get its passion back".

It's easy to see why Marengi feels mis-judged by the market; even while reporting that NetWare was "a legacy technology", Forrester researcher Jon Oltsik recommended corporates stay with NetWare, because "ripping it out would cost a mint and deliver no return".

It's also hard to argue with Marengi's analysis of where the problem arose. "Our problem is that the market has become hyper-competitive; but the company hasn't responded. Some of this has to be Frankenberg's doing; usually a company will reflect its leader's focus, and while Bob was a very nice guy, he was relatively passive. We needed open, aggressive marketing."

Particularly vexing, he says, is the fact that industry analysts can berate Novell for failing to do things that are already under way, or actually established.

"For example, the Forrester report condemns us for failing to produce native TCP/IP and cross-platform support; and in fact, we're one of the largest providers of TCP/IP, and one of the few people able to link IPX to IP networks, while Macintosh users can run over NetWare. But in fact, I blame Novell; I recently called a PC Week writer back with some response to a question, and he expressed amazement that someone from the corporation would return a call at all, never mind provide answers. People are writing about NetWare from a position of lack of knowledge, and that lack of knowledge is our fault for not being open with these people."

Other criticisms which Marengi focused on included the need to move into intra-net software. "In fact, we're doing this at least two levels; at the primary level, we're producing a small workgroup version, code-named Kayak, within the next 30 days for the smaller organisation. It will include basic Internet and Web server software. But on a larger scale, we see the Web as requiring a genuine NOS, not just some workgroup support -- which is basically all that Windows NT gives you," he said.

Marengi believes that the more senior IT manager will quickly understand the problem once the Novell picture is shown. "Directory services is one of the most important things we need to do on the Internet. It's an open NOS. Security is critical, but it can't be handled the way LAN managers do it today."

Serious players in the network market, he says will want to be able to manage across the Internet. His view is, unsurprisingly, that NetWare is ideally situated to fit this requirement: "We can manage NT with ManageWise; we fit in with OpenView and other HP and IBM standards."

Marengi's scorn is fiercest when presented with the idea that the future is based on Windows NT application servers, like the Boundless PC. "With the Internet, all the different files, NFS, NTFS; all these things will be doing I/O up and down. So NetWare has a major part to play in that. With Java, you move the application logic from the server, up to the network, not the other way; and this is the direction that people are going to want to move in. To move forward, you have to get out of the client-server model."

Embedded NetWare, or NEST, will be downplayed in public pronouncements. But this, he indicates, is not because it is being downplayed inside Novell. It's just that although there are some 80 partners developing NEST devices, there'll be small revenues from this for at least another year.

Finally, look for partnerships and purchases. "We have a billion dollars in cash, and will fill the product line with good products and good small companies coming out of Silicon Valley. And we'll really be beefing up the partnership deals."

What he won't be doing, however, is competing head on with Windows. "That meant nobody wins. We're going to be the Switzerland of networking, and get all these other things to work together; we won't be bashing Microsoft on the head. We aren't trying to stop NT."

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