For the first time in a long time, Novell Inc. has made abig splash across the blogosphere. Unfortunately it took the sale of itscompany to do it.
Novell customers and partners were met with a shockingwake-up call on Monday morning after the company announced it had agreed to aUS$2.2-billion bid from Seattle-based Attachmate Corp. As part of the deal, the company alsoannounced it was selling undisclosed intellectual property to CPTN HoldingsLLC, a technology consortium led by Microsoft Corp.
Jon Brockmeier, an open source blogger with NetworkWorld U.S. who workedas a community manager for Novell’s openSUSE from Feb 2008 to Jan 2010, calledthe deal “a sad end for a once-great company.” Brockmeier added that thesurprise buyer doesn’t look good for Novell or the open source community ingeneral.
“What (Attachmate) is decidedly not known for is innovationof any kind. It looks like it’s picked everything up via acquisition or mergers,”he wrote. “This doesn’t bode well for product development or a continuation ofinvestment in any sort in the openSUSE community. Novell has already scaled back from its heydaywhen it had recently acquired SUSE and Ximian and was keeping a lot of FOSSdevelopers on its payroll.”
Brockmeier also referenced the part of the deal which willsend some undisclosed Novell IP assets to Microsoft-led CPTH as “even moreominous.”
“You don’t pay $450 million for something you don’t plan touse, typically,” he wrote. “As far as I can tell, CPTN isn’t producing anything— which means that ‘use’ may be in the form of patent licensing shakedowns. TheMicrosoft/Novell deal is set to expire in the next year, so this may beMicrosoft ensuring that Novell’s patents don’t wind up in someone else’s hands— but hoping for a purely defensive stance is probably overly optimistic.”
“If there’s any silver lining, it may only be that Novellwasn’t sold to Oracle. And I’m not entirely sure that would have been worse,”he added.”
ZDNet’s Linux and open source blogger Paula Rooney was notas quick to judge the merits of the deal, but admitted to being “a bit stunned”that Attachmate (and Microsoft) were involved.
“I suppose Attachmate’s interest in Novell’s Xen-baseddesktop virtualization software makes sense,” she wrote. “Attachmate is at itscore a terminal emulation company and we know that desktop virtualization isthe favored successor for that technology”
But Rooney also pointed out the questions many in the opensource community will be asking themselves in wake of the deal.
“We know Attachmate plans to run the SUSE Linux business,but which — if any — of the many GPL-Linux based assets of Novell are embeddedin the Microsoft portfolio,” she wrote. “Fears about a Microsoft-led legalcharge against Linux have declined somewhat but it should be apparent to anyoneinvolved in this deal that the general business community — customers, vendors,developers and partners — need more details than what has been dropped on theirplate this Thanksgiving week.”
ComputerWorld U.S. blogger Steven J.Vaughan-Nicols, said the Novell customers and partners he’s talked to areseriously questioning the benefits of the Attachmate buy.
“While no one was willing to go on record yet, several majorpartners said that that they would be reconsidering their strategic Linuxrelationships as a result of the deal,” he wrote. “Until it becomes clearexactly what will be happening with Attachmate’s SUSE and how Microsoft fitsinto this deal with its intellectual property purchase, I think any Novell SUSELinux customers or partners would do well to be cautious for the next fewmonths.”
OStatic blogger Sam Dean said that the deal, along withOracle’s recent buy of Sun Microsystems, now leaves Red Hat in an advantageoussituation.
“As the only remaining public, U.S. company focused on opensource, and with a thriving business surrounding Linux, the deep knowledge ofhow the Linux business works at Red Hat will become even more of an advantage asNovell loses its independence,” he wrote. “Microsoft and Attachmate will likelyoffer relatively diluted focus on the Linux business, just as in recent years,Novell’s Linux business has largely depended on deals that Microsoft helped itstrike, with Microsoft often showing diluted focus on that task.”