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Network MVP: And the winner is . . .

Jan 26, 20043 mins
Enterprise Applications

January has rolled around again, and it’s time to hand out Wired Windows’ annual Network MVP Award. This virtual award (there’s no plaque, no trophy, no diamond ring and certainly no big check) is given each year to the person(s) who – in my estimation – have done the most to further their organization’s network agenda during the previous year.

Just like most sports’ MVP awards, this one is entirely subjective. However, that doesn’t mean I hand it out to someone I think fondly of. Over the past few years, I’ve often referred to this person in a very sarcastic way, lambasting his people skills and technical knowledge. I’ve even taken him to task over his business skills. Nevertheless, he did something in 2003 that I never believed he could and that hadn’t been seen or heard in many a year.

Jack Messman made Novell  relevant once again.

From even before March 2001 (when Messman became CEO at Novell) until March 2003, the most often used adjectives in stories about Novell were “former networking giant” or, simply, “irrelevant.” Last year, though, Messman started by acquiring Linux desktop powerhouse Ximian, then he announced that the upcoming NetWare 7 would run on a Linux kernel, and he followed that by purchasing SuSe for its Linux  distribution. Metaphorically, he succeeded in grabbing the network community by the collar, shaking it thoroughly and making sure it paid attention to the former-and-will-be-again “networking giant.”

It’s not just me who thinks so, by the way. Novell’s stock went up more than 200% in 2003, making it the fifth-best performer in the market. Only once before had Novell done as well, back in the “glory days” of 1991 when it was the second-best performing stock basking in the glow of an overwhelming edge in the LAN market and the looked-forward-to Novell Directory Service (now eDirectory).

The company fell on hard times after its disastrous acquisitions in 1993 (Unix, Digital Research) and 1994 (WordPerfect), and it took almost 10 years to regain some of its former strength. But most companies don’t ever get the change to “regain” anything. We can’t know what the future will bring but for now the MVP choice is easy. So here’s to you, Jack Messman. You did good; you deserve this award.

Tip of the week

Previous winners of the Wired Windows’ Network MVP award have been HP’s Carly Fiorina (2001), Radiant Logic’s Michel Prompt (2000), Bowstreet’s Frank Moss and Jack Serfass (1999), Directory Enabled Networks co-chairs John Strassner and Steven Judd (1998), and Novell’s Eric Schmidt (1997 ).