Novell jumps on cloud bandwagon

Novell Inc. is hoping the ongoing recession will drive companies toward a service-driven data centre — or as one industry observer calls it, the company’s cloud computing strategy.

The company announced its new vision, which encourages customers to combine the company’s SUSE Linux Enterprise and Platespin Workload Management platforms with Novell’s newly created Business Service Manager product suite, on Thursday.

“In the economy we’re in today, the IT department doesn’t want to be viewed as a cost centre,” said Richard Whitehead, director of marketing for data centre solutions at Novell. “They want to be viewed as a profit centre that delivers the right services, to the right people, at the right time.”

Under this new strategy, Novell aims to help IT departments build, manage and measure the services they provide the rest of the enterprise. The focus for IT shops should be on meeting service level agreements, using open and interoperable technologies, and measuring the delivered services and how well they match user needs.

“There’s lots of great people out there that build piece parts, but if all you’ve got is piece parts that don’t integrate and work well together, you end up with silos of observation and operation that really (aren’t) business-oriented,” said Ross Chevalier, CTO at Novell Canada Ltd.

John Sloan, a research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., said Novell’s strategy is hardly earth-shattering, adding that almost every vendor is working toward the idea of managing infrastructure as a service delivery mechanism.

“I’m surprised they didn’t use the word cloud,” he said. “It’s a flexible way to expand and retract resources and make things more cloud-like.”

As virtualization becomes more fundamental to server workloads, all companies — not just virtualization providers — have been forced toward this services approach, he added.

As for Novell itself, Sloan said the company has some good pieces in place, especially in terms of capacity planning.

“Platespin is really an excellent product and has been used in the past for capacity planning, management, provisioning of virtualized servers and managing the transition to virtual environments,” he said.

For Novell, the desire to work toward a service-driven data centre is why the company has dabbled in the Linux, virtualization management and business service markets.

An example of an organization running a successful service-driven data centre, Whitehead said, would be one that, first and foremost, takes business demands into consideration.

“Take a hospital as an example,” he said. “I have doctors that need access to patient records and I’ve got patients that might need to fill prescriptions online. So I’m serving both an internal and external audience.”

And because many hospitals see cyclical demands for certain services and year-round demands for others, managing these issues throughout the course of a year is crucial to efficient IT.

Whitehead said taking advantage of Platespin’s workload management suite is one way to tackle this problem. PlateSpin Migrate, for instance, decouples server workloads from the hardware level and can move work from physical servers to virtual loads and back again.

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