Thursday, May 25, 2006

Savvy Investing

Just over five years ago, Novell acquired Cambridge Technology Partners for around $266 million.

Yesterday, they sold the renamed consulting branch - Celerant - for about $77 million.

Now, call me silly, but I thought the idea was to buy low and sell high.

Looks like Novell basically paid close to $40 million a year just to get rid of Eric Schmidt, and replace him with an even more misguided and incapable buffoon (aka Jack Messman). Good work if you can get it.

I've said it a million times - Novell has an absolutely wretched history of execution against a strategy...I continue to believe more and more firmly that this is due to Novell's complete misunderstanding of the corporate landscape. If you've no clue what the problems are and where the markets are, you're going to have a hard time developing a meaningful strategy.

Never one to complain without providing suggestions, here then are mine for Novell.

1) Sack Jack Messman.
2) Remind all of the new CxO's that there's NOTHING about which they can be complacent.
3) Start giving away professional services to get your products in the door, or reimburse the channel to do it for you.
4) Stop with the idiotic advertisements. Nobody understands what you're talking about. Don't print this garbage just for the sake of shutting people up who complain that you don't advertise.

What the hell does "Software for the Open Enterprise" mean??? Why would an executive at any firm want his 'enterprise' to be "open"? Does anyone have a significant problem with their enterprise being "closed", or do they have problems improving efficiencies and delivering value? Messages that are this muddy are a complete and total waste of time and money. Take a cue from IBM or Apple for the love of God, I'm sure they'll share their marketing people.

Here's the text, verbatim, of Novell's ad in Computerworld from 5/22/06:


In my Open Enterprise, I can add applications, platforms and users without adding costs, problems and barriers.

Multiple operating systems. Distributed servers. Proprietary hardware. Without a data center solution capable of integrating and managing them all, you're losing time, money and productivity. Data Center solutions from Novell cost-effectively consolidate, manage and support all of your disparate systems on the most mature, scalable and secure Linux OS available. So you can centralize system management. Run leading business applications with the power of LInux and open standards. Lower costs. Improve service levels. And turn your data center into a profit center.

Data Center solutions from Novell.
This is the way to build your Open Enterprise."

I'm a Novell customer with just about every product under license, and I have no idea what this ad is selling. Worst of all, above the vacant gaze of some stuffed shirt, is a brain map with more meaningless jargon like "open", "build", "speed", "high performance", "immediate", "leverage legacy systems", "blatant". Who in the #^&*@ approved this idiocy???? It's sickening. Stop it.

Those are my suggestions. Print them out and use them to start your next fire if you will. I for one hope SOMEBODY in Utah starts to get it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Staying Red

As you may know, I have bled "Novell Red" for quite some time. However, experience upon experience has caused not only me, but other deeply rooted Novell bigots to question the intelligence of remaining a Novell customer.

GroupWise in particular has been a very frustrating product to own and operate, especially over the past two years. We've had serious discussions internally about migrating away from it in favor of, well, anything else that will work.

Enter Ken Muir, the former ZENworks golden child who decided he wanted a new challenge and left that product for the GroupWise arena. Recently, I was fortunate enough to have a brief but in-depth conversation with him (via e-mail appropriately enough) about the fundamental issues I see throughout Novell from the perspective of a customer.

While I cannot share the details of our conversation, suffice it to say that I for one am willing to give Novell the chance to demonstrate they 'get it' again. This chance will be manifested in the form of GroupWise 7 SP1, which is expected to release sometime in the next month or two. When it ships, we will implement it in production - on Linux - and use it as the starting point for server hardware replacements that we must conduct nationally.

We continue to have successes and issues with OES SP2 on SLES, but every day provides another opportunity to learn. My hope is that the issues we encounter continue to be resolved by education, rather than becoming bug-finding expeditions (as we have been doing presently with other Novell products).

It's a difficult, difficult time to stay loyal to Novell. I keep asking myself, "If we were all Microsoft, how much time could we devote to other initiatives?" My experience tells me that we'd be swapping one set of problems for another. Microsoft OS'es aren't nearly as high-maintenance as the press would have you believe, but they do have maintenance requirements. They also have numerous feature deficiencies which we somewhat take for granted - this is what I fear the most. The decision to use Novell vs. Microsoft for your core infrastructure is never apples-to-apples. There are tons of considerations, intangibles, and dependencies, and these differ wildly in every organization.

For now, at least, we will remain Red.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Vista Delayed - Where's the Outrage?

Recently, there was reportedly a statement released by Gartner indicating Microsoft would again delay release of it's Vista product. I didn't dig deep enough to figure out why, because it doesn't matter.

It used to be a big deal for me, as a Novell die-hard, when Microsoft effectively announced to the world that "this whole big OS development thingie is, well, darned tough to figure out, and, well, sometimes it kicks our little wet Seattle butts."

This was glaringly evident when you could set your calendars by Novell product releases. Every three months, roughly, you could count on a pretty significant product release.

Something interesting happened to all of us as we've matured in our profesisons. Quality started to matter - a lot - especially when we found ourselves without it.

Novell's insane rush to meet these ridiculous, blue-sky deadlines for product releases didn't result in better products. Quite the opposite - the quality of Novell products across the board has declined rapidly. All too often, product groups re-prioritize based on objectives that don't think nearly far enough ahead, and wind up releasing software that is a complete mess. NetWare. GroupWise. ZEN for Servers. BorderManager. Novell Portal Services. All of these products used to be great. Or at least full of promise. Now, some of them are either garbage, or soon to be deceased.

Only GroupWise is too stubborn to realize it's a dinosaur and needs to reinvent itself to remain relevant, but e-mail as a platform is one of the hardest for companies to replace. By rights, on it's merits, it should be a relic of a past long and thankfully forgotten. Sadly, it's not.

I'm surprised most of all by my own indifference to any announcement that the ship date for Vista will slip. I think to myself "Let it slip, if that means it'll be right when you finally ship it." This is a lesson Microsoft seemed to have learned over the past 10 years, and I'm glad they have. It's a lesson I wish very much that Novell would get through it's thick, old, dinosaur skull.