Well Well Well My Novell

The first I knew about the deal was when a former colleague told me a bunch of engineers in Germany had resigned in disgust.

‘Not another shady deal with Microsoft?’
‘Yup.’

First IBM with OS2, then countless SME’s the world over and latterly the Novell Wordperfect antitrust suit. Many who have bedded down with Microsoft have ended up with disgruntled staff on their books.

At first glance, the cross-licensing, cross-marketing, FSF-annoying deal Novell signed with Microsoft last year seemed like a just another victory for lawyers.

Not so if lastweek’s Novell financial results (Q2, 07) are to be believed. And believe me, I had trouble believing them.

Of course in the Open Source World there are still those who recoil literally at the very mention of the word proprietary and I guess for some of those SuSE lads in Stuttgart, teaming up with the Great Satan in Redmond was just a step too far. Certainly if the comments in this thread are anything to go by the pact with Microsoft still polarises feelings in geekdom.

The thing is, Novell’s robust strategy of Identity Management and Linux is starting to look more and more like those ‘little and large’ twins you occasionally see. It seems Linux is Novell’s 1.3Kg dominant strategy with the 500g IDM struggling along in a baby-walker until the age of 43. But the question is how much of the now growing Pengu revenue will come from the MS deal and how much will come from Novell’s own salesforce?

If I were a Novell sales exec looking with satisfaction at these results I wouldn’t get too happy. According to Motley Fool, 25% of the Linux revenue was due to the ‘pact’. Nice. We’ve proved we can hunt! We’re not just farmers! Comes the cry. This juicy chunk should be viewed as a peg which could be swept away at any moment or on any whim like, say, when Bill wakes up and stubs his toe.

I’m keeping the faith in the Utah Saints but let’s see a tad more independence.

Declaration: Contributor Paul Coletti holds many varied positions in the companies discussed here. In fact reading his stock purchase history for NOVL is akin to looking at an inebriated Harlem Globetrotters playing Twister. You can check out his holdings if you send him an e-Mail and he bothers to read it.

Comments

2 Responses to “Well Well Well My Novell”
  1. I’m pretty certain there wasn’t a ‘bunch’ of engineers resign in disgust from Novell – in Germany/Nuremberg or indeed any other office location. There was one pretty high profile departure in Jeremy Allison who made his feelings at the time, and that of the whole Samba community, on the deal perfectly clear. I believe he has ended up at Google where his work continues to benefit the entire community.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of developers (and others) who are very uncomfortable with the Novell-Microsoft deal. There’s a long standing rumour that Red Hat will employ any kernel developers wishing to leave Novell/SUSE – although the reverse would also be true. Not forgetting, Mark Shuttleworth’s kind(?) offer posted to the opensuse mailing list – although quite why Canonical requires developers is a mystery as they seem to leech off Debian.

    True, Robert Love has left to go to Google – but that would be hard to resist for anyone. I believe that Robert and Jeremy are good friends, so it’s possible (likely?) that Jeremy may have had something to do with that. There’s no indication that Robert’s leaving was related to the Microsoft-Novell deal. Although, only Robert will know that for certain. Chris Mason also recently left (for Oracle) but that would have been before the NOVL/MSFT deal, and I’m sure he was getting fed up with being a one man reiserfs band. Could it be related that SUSE changed to ext3 as the default filesystem shortly after he left?

    The recent results do show an increase in Linux revenue for Novell – which is surely a welcome sign. You are correct to speculate whether this is as a result of Microsoft having thousands of coupons to distribute. (Maybe distribute is the wrong word… I’m sure Microsoft wouldn’t want to be called a Linux distributor) It would seem to me that the increased Linux sales have been generated via Microsoft. It’s surely somewhat ironic that it turns out that Microsoft can sell Linux somewhat more effectively than Novell…

    In fact, some might say that this is pretty much par for the course with Novell. Funny how things turn out.

  2. Pete says:

    How Jeremy and Robert left the (current) great satan of free software for Google I can’t understand. To go from a company who signs a deal with another for a large amount of cash, to a company who will censor itself to gain access to lucrative markets (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4645596.stm) is something I can’t quite square with my moral views.

    But google can do no wrong right now, and Novell can do no right. If Novell were to collude in jailing free speech, they’d be closed down. But google can do this, declare themselves ‘sorry’ and carry on.

    ‘Do no evil’ was a good start, a long time ago. Both Love and Allison are now contributing to a company that willingly censors free speech in China. Nice step up guys, hope the stock is worth it.

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