Tales In Tech History: Novell

Network ManagementNetworksOpen SourceSoftware

Not many tech firms come from the US state of Utah, but for many years Novell was the bedrock of local area networks

Another huge blow for Novell came when resellers began re-certifying their Novell CNE employees as Microsoft MCSE technicians. It should be remembered that these field support technicians had been until now Novell’s primary contact in the field with direct customers.

These technicians were thus able to position Windows 2000 features as superior to that of NetWare.


Open Source

Faced with decline revenue, Novell turned its focus onto net services and platform interoperability, and its products such as eDirectory and GroupWise were made multi-platform.

Novell even attempted to become a vendor of both software and services when it acquired the consulting company Cambridge Technology Partners (CTP) in July 2001, despite in-house opposition to the acquisition.

This was because CEO of CTP, Jack Messman, had used his influence as a board member of Novell since its inception, to engineer this merger. As part of the deal became CEO of Novell.

Novell continued to acquire companies (SilverStream Software in July 2002), and then Ximian (August 2003) and Linux OS developer SuSE (November 2003), marking the company’s commitment to a future product line based on Linux.

In 2005 Novell released Open Enterprise Server, which offered a choice between a NetWare or SuSE Linux Enterprise Server kernel.

Novell’s revenue stream from its Linux business continued to grow, but this growth was not fast enough to offset the decrease in revenue of NetWare. Messman was fired in 2006 and Ronald Hovsepian was named as CEO.

But 2006 was the year when Novell announced its controversial joint patent agreement with Microsoft.

This had come about as a result of Novell lawsuit in 2004 against Microsoft in which it alleged that Redmond had engaged in antitrust violations regarding Novell’s WordPerfect business in 1994 through 1996.

A New Home

Novell lost the lawsuit but in 2006 the two companies announced a joint collaboration agreement, including coverage of their respective products for each other’s customers.

They also promised to work more closely to improve compatibility of software, and set up a joint research facility.

Microsoft even paid $348 million to Novell for patent cooperation and SLES subscription, but initial reaction was mostly critical, with concern that Novell had “sold out” and doubt that the GNU GPL would allow distribution of code, including the Linux kernel.

Novell’s decline continued and in March 2010 it declined a buyout offer from Elliott Associates, L.P. But later that same year (November 2010) Novell agreed to be acquired by Attachmate for $2.2 billion.

The Attachmate Group was in turn later acquired by Micro Focus International in 2014, of which Novell is now a division.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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