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Novell: We need a single message from you

Sep 30, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Novell presents a "forked-tongue" marketing message

Some readers think I’m too hard on Novell as the company seeks to create its new identity as an open source, Linux-loving operating system company. I’ve been hard on Novell, certainly. But “too hard”?

At BrainShare Europe, recently, Novell execs continued their tired mantra of “The Netware you know and love is not going away.” It’s a line we’ve been hearing for the past few years, but it is open to various interpretations. It could mean, for example, that your current NetWare 5 servers will just go on and on (and not “go away”). After all, as I’ve noted in the recent past, there are still NetWare 4.x, 3.x and even 2.x servers in production networks. They, evidently, aren’t “going away” either.

The perception of the press covering BrainShare Europe, though, is that Novell would like NetWare to “go away,” to be replaced by Linux. For example, the U.K.’s published a story headlined: “Novell offers its NetWare users a migration path to SuSE Linux.” Quoting both Novell CEO Jack Messman and Freddie Kavanagh, CTO at Novell Europe, the story reveals that the upcoming release of Open Enterprise Server is being viewed as a transitional step for users to make the move from NetWare to SuSE Linux.

A story in another U.K. magazine, The Inquirer, reporting on the recent reorganization at Novell was headlined: “Novell restructures away from NetWare. NetWare? What is that?”

Now I no longer ask Novell spokespeople if NetWare is going away. I know it’s going away. You know it’s going away. We all know that in the not very distant future all development on the NetWare kernel will cease. Most of us have come to terms with that. Most of us are quite pleased, actually, that Open Enterprise Server will offer an almost seamless transition from NetWare to Linux. We appreciate that we’ll be able to make this transition according to our individual schedule – some faster, some slower. We think it’s wonderful that Novell is providing tools and support to application vendors so that they can port their services to the SuSE Open Enterprise platform.

What I cannot abide is the continued duality in the message Novell presents – some might call it “forked tongue” marketing. This need to reassure audiences perceived as being NetWare stalwarts that “NetWare is not going away” while at the same time telling the penguin-loving open source legions that the company is moving as quickly as possible to the new platform. The company will say, of course, that it does tell everyone the same thing. Unfortunately, it’s said in such a way that it can be interpreted in various ways by the listener.

All I’m asking is that Novell send out a single, clear, unequivocal message to everyone. If that’s being “too hard” on the company, then so be it.