Getting to Know You—Again

Novell gets friendlier with larger consulting firms, stricter with smaller integrators.

As Novell transforms its model to one that provides product and services, it still will need the help of solutions provider partners.

The proposed $240 million acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners (CTP) was highlighted by Novell executives at BrainShare last week. Officials touted the deal as the culmination of a two-year hunt to find a company that could help Novell push solutions based on its technologies, to shore up an eroding market.

While some partners lamented the acquisition as one that isnt the right fit, Novells new CEO-designate was upbeat. "We believe the future has never been brighter," says Jack Messman, who will remain CEO of CTP until the deal goes through in about 90 days.

Even though Novells structure will enable it to target large commercial accounts, it still will work closely with select partners. Novell Professional Services has been forming alliances with enterprise-oriented consultancies. For smaller partners, the main focus remains on products like NetWare and GroupWise. "We cant work with just any channel partner anymore, though," says Dennis R. Raney, Novells senior VP and CFO.

On the enterprise side, Novell is partnering with Deloitte & Touche, KPMG, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers to push eDirectory into the enterprise. D&T, for example, is using eDirectory in a PeopleSoft implementation under way at Freddie Mac, a nationwide mortgage firm.

James P. Burns, principal at Deloitte & Touche, initially was worried about possible channel conflict when the Novell-CTP deal was announced. But he says his apprehension was put to rest after a meeting with Novell executives at BrainShare.

As Novell executives see it, products such as eDirectory, its cross-platform directory that supports NetWare, Windows NT/Windows 2000, Sun Solaris and Linux, requires the enterprise skill sets that larger consulting firms possess. But that will open doors for other allies, as well. CTPs presence in the enterprise market will bring more visibility to Novells smaller and midrange partners, says Mark Taylor, Novells VP of worldwide channel sales.

"We plan to keep our commitment to partners," says Ladd Timpson, Novells director of worldwide channel marketing. Given the complexity of eDirectory deployments, Novell is working to develop eDirectory training and certification programs. Officials also credited ports to non-NetWare OS for eDirectorys enterprise success.

Meanwhile, requirements are growing more stringent for its traditional partners. "Channel partners need to do more than resell boxes now. They have to develop expertise," says Raney. Novell has been nudging channel partners toward improving their skills and performance levels. In one recent move, Novell "adjusted" the support levels of channel partners. "Partners who perform better now get more [support] incidents. Partners who dont perform as well get less," says Michael Jackson, Novells channel marketing manager.

Meanwhile, at BrainShare, Novell touted its Portal Services and wireless capabilities for its current version of eDirectory. It also announced that eDirectory will support IBM AIX, Compaq Tru64 and HP UX, while a future version will be extended to support legacy systems.