Novell leader aims for balancing act


It’s been a busy year for Ron Hovsepian, with the Novell president and CEO presiding over a controversial pact with Microsoft while trying to carve out a role for Novell, and for Linux, beyond the data centre. Hovsepian sat down with Network World Canada senior writer Jeff Jedras during the company’s recent BrainShare conference to discuss these and other issues.

Q: Is there an overarching theme or message that you’re trying to communicate to your customers at this year’s BrainShare show?

A: “We’re focused on our customers, and we’re going to maintain a very consistent handle on that path. We want to make sure we’re positioned as an enterprise-wide infrastructure company, focused on a two-pronged strategy of enterprise-wide Linux from desktop to data centre and the enterprise-management services associated with a services oriented architecture (SOA). We think we can deliver a subset of those enterprise management services…identity and security management, systems and resource management, and some of the workgroup collaboration management tools. We can focus on those market segments, build on our Linux strategy, and we think there’s plenty of real estate there to take.

Q: When you speak to IT managers what are some of the top challenges they tell you they’re facing, and do you have the offerings in place to help them meet those challenges?

A: “They’re feeling the pressure of having to take more costs out of the business. With all of the compliance stuff they’ve got to reduce risk. They’re also dealing with increasing complexity. That manifests itself with the desire to do a consolidation on a blade server or to do virtualization, and they want help simplifying their implementations. It translates into a consolidation play. I think there are areas we still need to fill (in meeting those challenges). I think we’ve done a very good job getting a majority of the pieces filled with ourselves and our partners, and I think we’ll fill out the rest. But we have enough here to get going on the markets we’ve chosen.

Q: There was a strong reaction when Novell announced its pact with Microsoft last October. Do you think some of those initial misgivings have subsided?

A: “I do. There’s a lot of deals that have been done in our industry that were deals that were more press-oriented versus content-oriented. We and Microsoft focused on really delivering a lot of content in this relationship. When we rolled out the technical roadmap, and were able now to demonstrate some of the code that we’ve got done, I think that really validates how strong the relationship is working at the deep content level. The sales figures for the first quarter also represent an incredible push in terms of what we’ve gotten done in the marketplace. It’s working at both the sales level and the technical level.”

Q: There seems to be a disconnect between enterprise clients, which see the need for interoperability and have been generally supportive, and the open source purists who have been decidedly less so. Do you think you’ll ever get them onside?

A: “There is always a diversity of opinions in the community, and our job is to listen to them all. We’re in a very unique position with the responsibility of trying to balance this custodial relationship between the open source community and all the diversity of their desires, and the customer community and all the diversity of their desires. As the custodian in the middle, one thing I see from my seat is if we’re not successful driving Linux into the enterprise in volume, we’re never going to have a chance to continue to help the community to flourish. Our dollars are the bloodline going right back into the community with our investments….We’re trying to bridge some of those customer needs for the long-term success of Linux overall.”

Q: You have your own development team, but how reliant is Novell on the open source community for innovation?

A: “We absolutely rely on the community for innovation, and we absolutely contribute our innovation as well. All distributors rely on the community and that’s not going to change, at least in the foreseeable future. We will remain committed to helping that community and making sure we develop appropriately and share back as we have in the past. We need each other and that’s not going to change.”

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