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Novell reorg aims at solution sales

Novell's new focus on intelligent workload management drove December 2009 decision to streamline operations, company said.

Novell Inc.'s move to consolidate four business units into two is part an attempt to move to a solutions-sale vs. a product sales focus, observers said.

On Monday, the Waltham, Mass.-based company said the reorganization—which included no layoffs—will focus its efforts on an emerging "Intelligent Workload Management" (IWM) market.

"Our first reaction was we wondered if they were positioning the solutions side for sale and actually talked to Ron [Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian] last night and he said it's the opposite--they're looking to grow it," said Adam Grey, CTO of Novacoast, a Novell Linux partner based in Santa Barbara, Calif.

IDC analyst Al Gillen said a concentrated focus on workload management for the new year makes sense. "They're trying to manage their marketing and sales efforts around a broader solution."

Every major tech company reshuffles its deck every year or so, Gillen said. He cited Microsoft's recent decision to bring Azure cloud efforts into its platform group and similar changes at IBM and HP.

Like many, Gillen at first suspected this news was a precursor of more layoffs to come, but he said he is reassured on that front. Novell, Microsoft and others have cut staff over the past year.

What is changing at Novell?
In this reorganization, three current units—identity and security management (ISM); systems and resource management (SRM); and open platform solutions (OPS) will meld into one security, management and operating platforms business unit headed by senior vice president Jim Ebzery.

A new collaboration solutions business unit will be run by Colleen O'Keefe, who had been senior vice president of global services.

It's ultimately a good move and Jaffe leaving as Senior VP of R&D will release the chokehold on innovation.

Jeff Jaffe, the chief technology officer for the past four years, is now a strategic consultant and will leave on February 1, 2010, the start of Novell's new fiscal year. Roger Levy, senior vice president of strategic development, is also leaving.

At least one Linux expert, and former Novell employee called Jaffe's exit a good thing.

Stephen Holmes (@nonsequitir) posted his response on Twitter "It's ultimately a good move and Jaffe leaving as Senior VP of R&D will release the chokehold on innovation."

Frank Basanta, director of technology for Systems Solutions, a New York City-based technology consultancy with a strong Linux practice, said security and identity management have driven a lot of business for Novell of late, so putting them into a larger group may make sense.

And, he acknowledged that most tech vendors have been pushing for solution sales vs. product sales, but with limited success thus far.

No mention of Linux?
There was some speculation that this corporate change, the announcement of which did not mention Linux once, meant Novell is downplaying the open-source operating system.

Matthew Aslett, senior software consultant at The 451 Group, posted to Twitter about the lack of mention of Linux in the release, "Novell appears to be experiencing a past life regression."

Those claims were rebuffed by a Novell corporate spokesmen as "absolute rubbish."

"We're firmly committed to Linux and open source as an integral part of our overall business," said Ian Bruce, Novell's director of worldwide press relations via email.

Novell has always had a "mixed source" strategy. Linux and OPS has always been an integral part of our overall business. The reorg will help here, especially as we focus on developing integrated offering for our customers existing data centers, and as they move to virtualized and cloud environments," Bruce wrote.

Bruce cited IDC numbers showing a 17% annual growth rate for Linux in 2010.

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