The 'break' over the holidays has been very refreshing, at least until this week. A half-dozen small issues & developments served to remind me that some things will never change. I typically speak out against the pessimistic mindset that causes people to stop challenging their environment, limitations, etc. Today, a little part of the optimist in me is dead.
At my own company, we've gone from projections of excellent financial performance across the board to a "batten down the hatches" mantra where any expenditure must be absolutely necessary - somewhat frightening for a company as static, mature, and large as ours.
Worse yet, at Novell, the message regarding the death of Novell Security Manager by Astaro as a product offering was bred with the announcement that the formerly deceased BorderManager on NetWare would be reincarnated. BorderManager is a notoriously bad enterprise firewall product - bad in that it had great potential that was amputated by horrible design decisions (not the least of which was running an IP-based appliance on a kernel to which IP is foreign). So now it's back, and as of 2/1/07, you won't be able to buy a Linux-based firewall product from Novell...the world's leader of Linux solutions. Eventually they'll have a Linux-based product that does some of what BorderManager/NSM does, but that'll be much later. Worse yet, as owners of NSM, you'll have to re-purchase Astaro should you choose to remain on that product.
Bind this with the as yet unresolved problems of OES Linux patches coming down in giant snowballs filled with new issues top-to-bottom (suddenly, things break, and YaST - the big SuSE differentiator - has to be mothballed if you use RUG); GroupWise's continuing decline in market share (now roughly 5%) and growing feature gap relative to the major e-mail systems (SharePoint anyone?); the utter inability for Novell to have capitalized on any of the positive momentum with which they were bestowed in the Linux space...and the piece de resistance - my sweetheart product, the cornerstone of my career as an engineer, is decoupling itself from eDirectory.
That's right - ZENworks will no longer support eDirectory natively.
You'll hear it referred to differently, but they're basically eschewing eDirectory, ConsoleOne, and iManager in favor of their own mini-directory and web-based management interface. It will presumably synchronize in some fashion from eDirectory, but will definitely present brand new challenges from the standpoint of delivering applications for those of us who have "followed the rules" for the past decade.
The culmination of these recent discoveries combined with the wisdom of hindsight have led me to the following conclusion. Novell is a company without leadership capable of governing and channeling their product development efforts. They develop methods and technologies, and run them unbridled to their logical ends at a pace 4-5 times faster than customers can adopt them. Their history is rife with examples (except for GroupWise). Novell Portal Services - dead before it had a chance. DeFrame (the ZEN component that seamlessly integrated delivery of terminal-server based applications) - similarly fated. (Sounds cool, doesn't it? Well, you can't have it anymore). SilverStream / exteNd - not exactly pushing this anymore, are they. Don't worry, you'd never have been able to do the stuff they showed at BrainShare anyway.
If you're still carrying stock, you missed your chance to bail out and take the tax break before 12/31/06. So you have two choices. Bail out now and send a message, or wait until your tax picture for 2007 becomes clearer and bail out then. But whatever you do, DON'T hold NOVL long hoping for a turnaround. It won't happen. Ever. Not Ron Hovsepian, Chris Stone, or Jesus H. Christ himself could change the culture significantly enough in Happy Valley to keep Novell from shooting itself in one foot as it sprints ahead of it's customers with the other.
It's a sad day when someone like myself - a former Novell employee, and long-time champion of their vision & product set - says to his VP (of our Novell products) "If you told me tomorrow to get rid of all this crap, I'd say 'fine'." You fight for the people who fight for you - the people who back you up and make you look good for choosing them. It's just not a fight worth choosing anymore.