Two Davids, no Goliath

David Thomas, ManageSoft's Asia Pacific director and David Lenz, sales and marketing director at Novell Asia-Pacific, go head to head on their respective offerings.David Lenz on Novell"Novell provides business solutions that work across multiple platforms and that include software applications developed using open Internet standards, the company's own eDirectory network infrastructure products, and consulting services.

David Thomas, ManageSoft's Asia Pacific director and David Lenz, sales and marketing director at Novell Asia-Pacific, go head to head on their respective offerings.

David Lenz, Novell, Director of Sales and Marketing, Asia-Pacific

David Lenz on Novell
"Novell provides business solutions that work across multiple platforms and that include software applications developed using open Internet standards, the company's own eDirectory network infrastructure products, and consulting services."

THOMAS: Given the dominance of Microsoft's Active Directory in the marketplace, how will you manage the impact to Novell's NDS strategy?

LENZ: Firstly, let's assume you mean Novell eDirectory as the product -- Novell NDS was replaced some five years ago. Microsoft Active Directory has certainly helped customers who have struggled with the scalability and reliability of NT Domain.

It has also allowed them to move to a system that solves some of their issues and now has some limited capabilities across a WAN environment. Novell offers customers much more than just an application directory to manage Microsoft servers.

Customers wishing to manage across Windows, Unix, Linux, and NetWare realise the limitations of a single vendor solution. Novell's strategy is to offer customers choice and the phenomenal growth of Novell eDirectory since it replaced NDS in 1999.

Novell's approach has been clearly supported by our customers and the market as Novell continues to be the market leader in the directory space.

David Thomas, ManageSoft, Director, Asia-Pacific

David Thomas on ManageSoft
"ManageSoft is a multinational software company specialising in software management solutions for global organisations. ManageSoft provides software management products and services to corporations in the financial services, telecommunications, and other industries."

LENZ: Given that your Head Office is now in the US it would be good to provide a history of your organisation going back to the Box Hill days.

THOMAS: ManageSoft was founded after the staff buyout of Hewlett-Packard's Research & Development labs in 1990. Twenty-five of the staff pooled their severance pays, bought the technology they'd been developing and started a company in Melbourne.

Since that time, the company has continued its fantastic success and expanded throughout Europe, UK, South America, and the USA.

While the Australian industry is the loser when organisations like HP's R&D labs close, the legacy they leave behind is far more valuable -- a team of people who think globally and who know how to build a world-class software company -- that's what we did.

THOMAS: The software industry is dominated by US companies that see Australia as a very distant market. Does Novell see the lack of a local R&D capability a hindrance in supporting Australian companies?

LENZ: Novell is a very well-structured organisation and the president for the Asia-Pacific region reports directly to the company's CEO and chairman. This provides the region and our Australian customers with direct access to the management of the company including R&D resources. We also have R&D facilities in the region in India and China. The Australian operations have contributed and will continue to contribute to the development of our product suites. For example, our Branch Office product came from research and development in Australia with Australian customers. We see our global approach to R&D as a significant advantage over our competition.

LENZ: The IT software market has its challenges and certainly go-to-market strategies play an important part of doing business in the Asia-Pacific market. What are ManageSoft channels to market in the region?

THOMAS: ManageSoft Corporation is a focused software management solutions provider. We do one thing and we do it better than anyone else -- software management.

To deliver value to our customers such as ANZ Bank, KPMG, and JC Penny, we have a broad-based approach:

  • Our solutions are based on key technologies provided by our "technology partners" -- Microsoft and IBM.
  • We maintain direct enterprise sales teams in our major markets, including Australia, USA, and Europe, providing a wealth of experience in the software management market.
  • Finally, we compliment this capability with regional partners who have a deep understanding of their customer's business, providing the bridge between the technology and value delivery.
THOMAS: Security patch management is one of the most important topics for CIOs right now, yet Novell chose to offer PatchLink (a LAN-based solution) rather than develop an integrated solution. Do you see agile R&D as an important characteristic for solution providers?

LENZ: Novell has a very extensive suite of support software for resource management solutions. This covers support for the desktop and server for Microsoft, Linux and NetWare. Novell chooses best-of-breed third-party solutions as required to complete our offerings based on customer feedback.

We have demonstrated agility by being able to provide these solutions to our extensive world wide customer base in a timely manner. As always a good indication of how popular Novell's offerings are is how well they're received by customers and market analysts.

LENZ: Is ManageSoft likely to be around in five years and if so what would the company look like?

THOMAS: The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour -- so what has ManageSoft achieved since founding in 1990:

  • Significant growth, establishing sales offices in Australia, USA, and Europe -- with partners worldwide.
  • A loyal worldwide customer base that includes brands such as ANZ Bank, KPMG, Siemens, and JC Penny.
  • A product portfolio that makes our solutions highly desirable to large distributed organisations, particularly in the financial services, government, retail, and education sectors.
  • Recently ManageSoft Corporation won the prestigious AIIA/CeBIT 2004 awards for Exporter of the Year and IT Company of the Year.
So where will we be in five years? Bigger and still providing significant value to our customers.

THOMAS: ManageSoft's customers have often commented on Zenworks' lack of "scalability" across WANS. How are you addressing this?

LENZ: With ZENworks for Desktops Version 2, Novell did have some scalability issues with our inventory system as it was based on a central instance of a database that was not WAN friendly. However, Novell solved this issue some four years ago with the release of ZENworks for Desktops Version 3 which you'll find is a highly scalable and WAN friendly inventory solution. Today Novell provides customers with the choice of using the included Sybase database or natively supporting a Microsoft and Oracle database as the central repository for inventory information.

Ultimately this level of choice reduces overall cost of ownership.

LENZ: Does ManageSoft intend to develop products and solutions into other areas beyond software management?

THOMAS: As I said, ManageSoft is a focused software management solutions provider. We do one thing and we do it better than anyone else -- software management.

Ideas for our products come from two places: our customers who push our products into new areas and demand solutions to their business problems. Our engineering teams who develop creative solutions to problems no one else can solve (which is why we have worldwide patented technology).

There is always a danger with software companies becoming two large and unfocused -- spreading themselves too thin. This is certainly the case with many suppliers in the software management market sector.

For this reason we focus on supplying software management solutions to customers who have large, highly distributed organisations. Our products excel when our customers have a large number of sites, across the slowest WANs with an enormous legacy problem -- in short the worst infrastructure.

THOMAS: Many customers who have replaced ZENworks with ManageSoft have commented on the inaccuracy of ZENworks Inventory Asset Reports. Is Novell looking to resolve this problem?

LENZ: I'll assume following on from the previous question that this is based on the now obsolete Version 2 product. Currently within the ZENworks inventory system there is the ability to capture information using the following interfaces: Desktop Management Interface (DMI), Windows Management Interface (WMI), probe, and custom scanning. Novell has implemented this technology across millions of systems and has many hundreds of thousands of customers who are very happy with the accuracy of the inventoried data. We have, however, received requests from customers to enhance the reporting of the inventory data. We listened to their requests and made these enhancements in the most recent version ZENworks 6.5.

"We are finding that we have more customers than ever before interested in finding out about Novell's range of [Linux] solutions."

-- David Lenz
LENZ: With four core products and a couple of connectors listed on your Web site, do you see yourself as a niche player?

THOMAS: Our focus is our strength, with over 10 solution areas within the software management market, we clearly have the greatest product offering in that space. Our dedicated and innovative R&D team will ensure that we continue to expand our software management product offerings.

We sell to companies who are far from niche players, companies that continue to buy our products and add value to their business. Don't judge us by our Web site but judge us by the company we keep, such as ANZ, KPMG, Deloittes, and Mayne Group.

THOMAS: The IT operations management market is inherently conservative and looks for commercial reference customers. Does Novell see the constant move of commercial customers to Microsoft as a threat to their customer reference base?

LENZ: No, actually with our move to Linux and the increasing popularity of open source solutions, we feel it might be the other way around. Novell has repositioned itself to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by Linux and we are finding that we have more customers than ever before interested in finding out about Novell's range of solutions. In addition, these customers are keen to become commercial references to highlight the progressive nature of their organisation. The quality of our products will always ensure we have an excellent customer reference base. For example, ZENworks was recently added to the "Leaders" quadrant of the Gartner Software Distribution Magic Quadrant alongside one other supplier of this type of service. While ManageSoft was also listed in this study, it wasn't in the Leaders quadrant.

LENZ: It appears that your original product NetDeploy and now ManageSoft have traditionally filled a nice gap for customers who have tried to use Microsoft SMS but found it wanting. Now that Microsoft have released SMS 2003 and plugged a number of the gaps how do you see ManageSoft generating new business as the adoption of SMS 2003 ramps up?

THOMAS: Our customers choose our solutions for a number of reasons:

For customers who have existing toolsets, they may choose to purchase only those modules that add value to their infrastructure. For example, our Security Patch Management for automating patch deployment or our IT Business Intelligence solution for SLA reporting.

Customers who have a substantial legacy Windows environment choose our solutions because they provide the benefits from Microsoft's newer technology, such as Active Directory, on old systems.

Organisations that have UNIX, Linux, and MacOS platforms value our cross-platform solution. For organisations seeking to dramatically improve their business, they see our policy-based, client-centric solutions as the only way to deliver "Service Enablement" -- providing users with what they need (software), when they need it, wherever they are.

Finally, for those customers who have a green-fields environment, then our solution, which has been benchmarked as the cheapest to roll out and operate, provides enormous benefits.
THOMAS: Given the significant focus that Novell has had toward Linux and Open Source, how do ZENworks customers who manage predominantly Windows infrastructure react to this focus?

LENZ: We're finding that Novell customers are excited about opportunities to utilise the next wave of computing that is Linux and open source. Existing and new customers are already calling Novell to find out more about managing the growing number of Linux systems that have proliferated across their enterprise. Novell is already seeing the benefits of this strategy by recently signing two new customers from the top 10 largest Australian corporations over the last three months.

LENZ: What language localisation does ManageSoft provide for its products and documentation?

THOMAS: A significant proportion of ManageSoft Corporation's revenue comes from European countries including Germany, France, and the Netherlands, which is why our product supports European languages. In addition, the South American market is growing via our partners, taking our products into new territories.

Asia is a growth market and we have plans to continue our presence throughout the region. For this market, having a localised product is essential.

"Organisations that have UNIX, Linux, and MacOS platforms value our cross-platform solution."">

-- David Thomas
THOMAS: ManageSoft Corporation is currently growing 85 percent year on year, whereas Novell's growth has been far less. In this environment of slow growth and Linux focus, can Novell continue to invest valuable resources in ZENworks R&D?

LENZ: As an example, let's say that 85 percent growth from a base of 10,000 seats is 8500 new seats, whereas if Novell was to announce an 85 percent growth on an existing ZENworks base of approximately 40 million seats that would raise some eyebrows. ZENworks licensing revenue and new licenses continues to grow year on year and has done so since its introduction to the market some six years ago.

Novell continues to invest in ZENworks not only through natural growth but also by acquisition and partnering as seen by the recent inclusion of Red Carpet Enterprise from Ximian into the ZENworks product and the patch management service provided by Patchlink.

LENZ: As ManageSoft has stated it intends to expand into Asia, does it intend supporting double-byte characters?


THOMAS: To quote you, David, Novell has a "hand in all cookie jars from the desktop to server environments". Does this make Zenworks a lowest common denominator product?

LENZ: Novell is very well placed with the move to Linux to deliver incredible value to customers buy providing freedom of choice. The acquisition of Ximian provides Novell with a suite of products to service the Linux desktop and Linux server market integrated into our existing ZENworks suite -- thus expanding our offerings and continuing to drive Novell's market leadership in this area.

LENZ: If you were stranded on a desert island but you could have five things, what would they be?

THOMAS: (1) A plastic sheet -- to act as shelter, catch rain water and use as a still for turning salt water into drinkable water; (2) a large water bottle -- it's a desert island so it probably doesn't rain often; (3) a fish hook and line -- to catch dinner; (4) a knife -- to get bait for fishing, cut wood for a fire (hopefully there are trees on this Island) and use the shiny blade to attract attention; and finally (5) a soccer ball -- so I can paint a face on it and call it Wilson...

THOMAS: We noted during the preparation of these questions that a Novell engineer downloaded a large amount of ManageSoft literature. Which "source" is answering these questions?

LENZ: There must be very little activity at ManageSoft and on the Web site, if you are able to spend time and resources monitoring individuals who visit your site. Prior to asking questions of ManageSoft, Novell wanted to make sure that any questions asked were related to ManageSoft's most recent products to allow for a balanced Q&A session. Unfortunately, after reviewing the questions posed from ManageSoft it would seem that they should have followed the Novell engineer's lead and tried not to pitch questions relating to old products.

This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
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