Novell's Managed Objects' BSM buy spurs industry discussion

* Novell's bid to acquire Managed Objects caused many in the industry to stop and take notice

Novell's bid to acquire business service management (BSM) software maker Managed Objects caused many in the industry to stop and take notice. Some commend Novell's investment in the smaller management player, but others worry Novell could fail to exploit Managed Objects' technology to its maximum potential.

Forrester Research analysts explored the deal in a recent report, which details how Novell could gain from incorporating Managed Objects' technology into its portfolio -- but only if the acquiring company continues to develop the BSM strategy that made Managed Objects a success and a top competitor to BMC. Forrester analysts express concern that Managed Objects, an innovator in BSM, could go the way of a fellow management player SMARTS that seems to have gotten fully absorbed into EMC since being acquired in 2004.

"This represents an excellent opportunity for Novell to create visibility in one of the most dynamic and business-relevant areas of IT management software," the Forrester report reads. "However, Novell has traditionally been associated more with lower-level change and configuration management technologies than with higher-end business process discovery mapping and management. Hence, there is a danger that Managed Objects will become fully subsumed in the data center automation and workflow management 'spiel' from Novell, neglecting much of the company's potential."

Others agree the acquisition seems like a smart move for Novell, but are skeptical if the reality will be a good as the hype. One commenter in Network World's online community wrote the following:

"This is an interesting buy. We've been hearing so many differing things about Managed Objects over the past couple of years. They're not doing well, but at the same time they're somehow doubling revenue, they make their money not from the CMDB but from the dashboards/visualization they provide (all of these comments by their VC investors by the way)," the commenter said. "But Novell? Who saw this coming? Wasn't it supposed to be EMC? So is this a nice validation of the heterogeneous management scenario (which we started out with 5 years ago and virtualization is just the latest albeit big driver for) or is this just more noise in the marketplace that makes it harder for customers to cut through the tool clutter?"

Another participant in the online discussion said the configuration management database technology from Managed Objects can only benefit Novell's other products.

"Of primary interest no doubt to Novell is the myCMDB product and the visualization (dashboards) tools that Managed Objects has. There are a lot of synergies from a technical perspective," the commenter wrote. "Novell has managed to survive building a business around SUSE and other open source solutions. Managed Objects itself is virtually built with open source tools and solutions, and of course it's Java based. So it's a good fit into Novell's portfolio technically, but also Novell has nothing like a CMDB which is the foundation stone for any ITIL project."

Consolidation is inevitable in the management market, according to industry watchers, but it remains to be seen how vendors such as Novell will put acquired technologies to use. If done right, Novell could put acquired technologies to work at challenging the incumbent market leading management vendors -- BMC, CA, HP and IBM. Industry watchers expect Novell, along with Oracle, Microsoft, EMC and others, to accelerate efforts to seriously compete for IT management budget dollars.

"There is a significant opportunity for Novell to become a serious player in IT management software, raise its profile, and emerge as a true challenger to the Big Four," the Forrester report says. "If Novell builds upon what it has bought in Managed Objects — and possibly adds even more acquisitions in the future — it could be joining [the Big Four's club]. However, a fuller product portfolio is not all you need for success: Novell will have to change gears in its go-to-market strategy to succeed, but this is a competitor you should now be watching."


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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