Novell CEO applauded at upbeat user conference

Eric Schmidt, Novell Inc.’s CEO, was welcomed with a standing ovation as he began his keynote speech at this year’s BrainShare event, Novell’s annual user conference.

The audience of more than 6,700 was enthusiastic throughout his speech, which focused on Novell Directory Services (NDS) as a crucial tool in today’s world, where the Internet is increasingly driving the way we live and do business.

“Directories represent the next platform foundation that will support this next wave of Internet technology. Directory-supported applications will enable the individual, not the corporation or eyeball portal, to control the keys to the virtual kingdom,” Schmidt said in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Directory-based technologies represent the next level of higher evolution in the ecosystem we are all building in the networks of the world.”

He talked about how, because developments are occurring at a more rapid pace, the need for personal identity in the networked world is stronger, and so is the need for directories to keep everything under control.

“The new directory-enabled space allows us to make the Internet personal. It changes the way you use the network in fundamental ways,” he added. “I think there is an identity equation — take all the identities you have, add them together, and you’ll have a whole new industry.”

Laura DiDio, senior analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass., said this is the right time for Novell to capitalize on the directory. Three or four years ago, she said, the best “guesstimates” were that only 15 to 20 per cent of the NetWare installed base were actually using the directory to its full potential.

“That’s not true now — companies can no longer hold off on using a directory, the Internet has taken care of that,” she said. “The Internet has caused people to construct internal corporate intranets for Web access as well as extranets mapped to let their customers, business partners and mobile workers in, and to keep track of that you need a directory. Domains just aren’t going to cut it.”

Schmidt’s speech also reviewed what has happened since last year’s BrainShare, naming off everything that has shipped since then: GroupWise 5.5, ManageWise 2.6, ZENworks, NetWare 5.0, BorderManager and Netware 5.0 for Small Business, and SQL Integrator.

“Novell, under Schmidt’s stewardship, has actually kept promises,” Giga’s DiDio said. “Not only did they deliver the products on time, but the products worked,” she added, citing NetWare 5.0’s lack of major problems as an example.

DiDio said this is one big reason she thinks the mood at BrainShare was much more positive this year. A user conference for any one particular company is always going to be a bit of a “love-fest” but she said she definitely noticed people were a bit more positive than last year, and a lot more positive than during the years before that, when customers were unsure about the future of Novell.

Last year, Novell was finally regaining customer faith by stating a clear focus for the company, and now it’s showing that it has been successfully executing on its plans.

Monty Sharma, chief technology officer for Halifax-based telco MT&T, agreed.

“It was more focused toward the future and new applications this year,” he said. “So in the minds of their customers at least, Novell has turned the corner.”

Neil MacDonald, analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., added: “Novell in the past year and a half has not only stabilized, it’s actually grown slightly and it’s got new products out the door. It’s re-energized and has real products.”

While most analysts and users agreed things are definitely looking up, they also agreed Novell still has quite a bit of work to do — particularly on the marketing side of things. In order to compete with Microsoft and its Active Directory when Windows 2000 ships, they said, Novell will have to continue working very hard to get its message out there and make people aware that it has had a stable, working directory for several years now.

Novell announced several new products and strategic partnerships throughout the week of BrainShare.

One was a relationship with IBM Corp. Novell will be bundling IBM’s WebSphere, a Java-based programming platform to help design and deploy high-performance Web applications, with NetWare. Chris Stone, senior vice-president of strategy and business development for Novell, called this “the beginning of what we believe to be a long-term relationship with IBM.”

Stone discussed several other announcements in his portion of the keynote, including the Novell Internet Caching System — a plug-and-accelerate caching appliance architecture, available for licensing by Intel OEMs. It is designed to increase the capacity of a Web server and improve the speed and efficiency of delivering Internet content to customers.

“We’re also announcing that Dell Computer is the first to license this technology,” Stone said. Dell will deliver caching appliances on its PowerEdge line of network servers.

There was a series of other partnership announcements, including: Cabletron Systems will be partnering with Novell to deliver standards-compliant directory-enabled networking (DEN) products; Lucent Technologies and Novell intend to integrate Lucent’s QIPxpress Domain Name Server (DNS) and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) servers with NetWare 5.0; and Oracle Corp. and Novell announced an expanded bundling agreement to include a five-user version of Oracle WebDB with NetWare.

Novell talked about a few future technologies, such as a product code-named “K2,” which is based on Console One and integrates the directory-based desktop management of ZENworks with the server management functionality of ManageWise. Also discussed were “6 Pack,” the next extension of NetWare 5.0, and “Modesto,” Novell’s next generation 64-bit server operating system.

Quite a bit of buzz was also created by the announcement of future plans for digitalme, a directory-enabled technology for personal control of identity on the Internet.