Piece by Piece

As Novell attempts to remake itself, CEO plans to tap Silverstream's expertise in Web services.

Jack Messman, chairman, president and CEO of Novell Inc., is creating a new Novell following its acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., a year ago. Last week, Novell, of Provo, Utah, paid about $212 million for SilverStream Software Inc., of Billerica, Mass., a maker of Web services and application server software. The acquisition fills a long-standing gap in Novells lineup as the company attempts to remake itself after several years of declining market share in the network software market. Messman outlined his plans in an interview with eWeek Executive Editor Stan Gibson last week.

eWeek: How will SilverStream help carry out your Web services strategy?

Messman: Weve always had a strategic deficiency in not having an authoring environment for programmers to develop applications. We tried AppWare and [NetWare Loadable Modules] in the past, but we didnt do a very good job there, and Microsoft [Corp.] captured the application development market. So we concentrated on the infrastructure and the plumbing. However, the next revolution in IT is Web services, and in order to compete, we have to have an authoring environment. Thats where SilverStream fits in. We think we have three legs on the stool, so to speak. With Cambridge, we have integration services. Weve always had the infrastructure products, and now weve added the authoring platform. We believe there is no clear leader in Web services, and we think we can re-establish Novell there.

eWeek: Was an acquisition your only option?

Messman: We looked at partnering, acquisition or making it ourselves. It appeared it would take three or four years to do it ourselves. Wed have had to hire a lot of Java programmers, and then we might have missed the market. We got the technology, and we got the $50 million revenue stream that SilverStream has.

eWeek: Will there be other acquisitions?

Messman: There are still two or three holes in the Web services platform. We will fill some of them on our own, but for others, we may have to partner or buy, although were probably talking about niche technology acquisitions. Sorry, but I cant be more specific.

eWeek: Is interoperability with Microsofts .Net a priority?

Messman: When Microsoft has a product [in .Net] we can interoperate with, we probably will do that. Novell has always been multiplatform- and multiprotocol-oriented. We share a common philosophy with SilverStream: to interoperate with anyone.

eWeek: What kind of progress report can you give us a year after the merger of Novell with Cambridge Technology Partners?

Messman: Hindsight is always 20/20, but who could have guessed wed see such a collapse in the services business? Weve come through the slowdown, and now were getting to the place where IT investments will have higher priority. Overall, the acquisition [of CTP] hasnt paid off yet because there are long lead times in selling solutions as opposed to selling products. Combining sales forces has been a little slow, but we are using the consulting business to get Novell salespeople into customer accounts at a higher level.

eWeek: Where does all this leave the channel?

Messman: We made some big mistakes, and now we are going to reinvigorate our channel efforts. We need the channel and partners more than they need us. Well consult with channel partners to get an early adopter going. Well develop solutions in Cambridge and then make them available to channel partners.

eWeek: Whats an example of one of these solutions?

Messman: Identity provisioning for PeopleSoft [Inc.] or SAP [AG]. At the University of Louisville, they need to manage student identities because of the annual turnover of students. Using the directory and DirXML connectors, they can connect PeopleSoft with all other systems in the university. They can take people off and add them very easily. Some other areas are business process management for local governments, so they can organize work in repairing roads and providing water, for example; another is identity management for retail clerks, so they can be given permissions corresponding to their responsibilities. Every employee gets a personalized portal page.

eWeek: Where are you investing your research and development dollars?

Messman: We just decided to spend a lot on Web services, of course. The next big area is security. Weve got a lot of products, like single sign-on and iChain. Were developing business solutions around them.

eWeek: What about NetWare itself?

Messman: There are three or four releases in the works for NetWare, including what weve called Uinta and Modesto. One of them is a 64-bit release. Another will be Java-enabled. Were keeping NetWare current.

eWeek: How does Novell view Linux?

Messman: Positively. Its an alternative to Microsoft. I believe that if Microsoft were more friendly, there would not be as much of a push toward Linux. Microsoft wants people to have a homogeneous environment. We think you need to be heterogeneous.

eWeek: With CTP and SilverStream both in the Boston area, will Novell be moving its headquarters from Utah to Massachusetts?

Messman: Its not high on the agenda right now, but it might make some sense once we get SilverStream assimilated.