By Mark Long / Mobile Tech Today. Updated November 22, 2010.
Novell said Monday that it has agreed to accept a $2.2 billion acquisition offer from Attachmate. If Novell's shareholders approve the deal, the transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2011, after which Novell and its SUSE Linux operating system will become separate Attachmate business units.
Attachment expects to benefit from the deal because the two companies have complementary product portfolios and share many customers. This explains why "Attachmate has committed to building on the strengths of the Novell and SUSE brands to address customer needs," said Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian.
For others, however, the deal marks the end of an era. Gartner's advice to Novell's business customers is to sit tight and see how this evolves over the next 90 days in terms of support restructuring. "Take a lesson from the Oracle-Sun acquisition on this one and be aggressive in stating your preferred road map for Novell R&D going forward," advised Gartner Vice President Earl Perkins.
Watching and Waiting
Business customers using Novell technology should monitor the discussions within Attachmate concerning the future of legacy systems like GroupWise, Perkins observed. "Just because Novell was brought into Attachmate as a whole does not mean it will necessarily stay that way -- either within Attachmate or if Attachmate decides to sell assets of its own," he explained.
Novell also said Monday that the company has entered into a separate $450 million agreement under which unspecified Novell intellectual-property assets will be acquired by CPTN Holdings -- a consortium of technology companies organized by Microsoft. According to Perkins, this makes it likely that a huge chunk of Novell IP will eventually make its way to Microsoft through CPTN.
Microsoft's rivals will no doubt be keen to learn which elements of Novell's IP will end up with the software giant. However, Perkins thinks any problems that this poses for Microsoft's rivals may be limited to quelling any existing litigation that may have been pursued already.
"This has always been a long-standing back-burner issue, and the odds were long that there was going to be significant Microsoft impact even prior to the acquisition," Perkins said. But "it could make future litigation more problematic," he added.
A Significant Influence
Though Novell introduced a number of innovations over the years, it was unable to transform its software innovations into market gains. Still, the entire IT industry benefited as a result of the early battle between Microsoft Windows Server and Novell NetWare. "In the long run, Windows Server was a better product because of it," Perkins wrote in a blog.
Novell has had a significant and continued influence on a large number of vendors "ranging from identity and access management to the Linux market, from e-mail to virtualization, and, of course, security," Perkins observed. The technical quality of most of Novell's products also "remained consistent throughout most of Novell's existence," though the same "could not be said of the legendary Novell customer support, which suffered over the past years," he added.
According to Gartner, business customers may expect some delays in feature updates while organization, product-engineering, and product-management concerns within Attachmate are worked out.
"Many decisions will lie ahead for Attachmate, including product positioning and branding, management restructuring, possible division sales," Perkins explained. "It will be a period of transition for the Novell employee and the Novell faithful."