Novell assets go to Attachmate and Microsoft: who will get what, and why?

Posted by Staff   |   Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010   |  

Yesterday Novell finally announced a deal to sell its assets to Attachmate Corporation and another entity, CPTN Holdings LLC, created in early November and controlled by Microsoft for $2.2B. 
In September, tried to picture a scenario where VMware was the new Novell’s owner, according to rumors about a talk between the two. But just a few days later the company’s CEO ruled out the possibility while Reuters reported that potential buyers were not keen to own the NetWare business unit.

The closed deal involves no less than 882 patents, apparently assigned to CPTN Holdings for $450M, and a remarkable number of virtualization and cloud computing products.

The PlateSpin virtualization portfolio
First of all there is the whole PlateSpin product portfolio, which Novell acquired in February 2008.
Such portfolio includes physical to virtual (P2V) and virtual to virtual (V2V) migration tools, capacity planning tools and disaster recovery tools.
Despite Novell did a poor job in retaining the value of the brand, and the talents behind it, these products were once considered leading solutions by customers.

Unless Attachmate plans to become a virtualization vendor soon, these products are not appealing to them, while they may be extremely valuable to Microsoft.

The company has a simple capacity planning solution called Assessment and Planning (MAP) toolkit, that didn’t mature much (from a virtualization perspective) in the last few months. Similarly, Microsoft has a decent P2V migration solution, recently extended to desktop virtualization, but it’s hardly capable to match Novell PlateSpin PowerConvert in features and flexibility.
Last but not least, Microsoft is not currently using its P2V migration technologies to provide cheap and easy disaster recovery as PlateSpin Forge does, while that approach may be proven extremely successful for all SMBs attracted by Hyper-V.

The Novell cloud computing portfolio
Then, there’s the Novell product portfolio for infrastructure management.
The company has a valuable orchestration manager, ZENworks Orchestrator, that has been rebranded as PlateSpin Orchestrate in December 2008.
Novell also has a brand new Cloud Manager for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud computing infrastructures.
Finally, Novell was also working on a configuration and change management tool, codename Bluestar, that has not been unveiled so far.

All these pieces are building blocks for a private IaaS cloud computing infrastructure, and again, unless Attachmate plans to enter this market soon, they are probably more interesting at Redmond. 
Microsoft already invested in an orchestration framework, acquiring Opalis Software almost one year ago, but the integration seems much slower than expected. ZENworks instead is fine-tuned to support multiple hypervisors and provide some integration with Hyper-V.
Similarly, Microsoft seems in need of management capabilities for private IaaS clouds powered by its hypervisor. It wouldn’t announce a partnership with to support OpenStack so early otherwise. Novell Cloud Manager already supports Hyper-V and may be easier to place on the market rather than waiting for ISVs to build on top of OpenStack.
Finally, Microsoft may have seen interesting technologies at work in the Bluestar code, maybe useful to be integrated in System Center Configuration Manager, allowing it to mature enough for adoption in cloud computing.

The OEM agreement with VMware
And then, of course, there’s the OEM agreement with VMware, which allows the latter to leverage SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) across all its virtual appliances, and distribute it as part of vSphere 4, as the OS of choice for enterprise customers that want to standardize their non-Windows guest operating system.

The idea that VMware could become an OS vendor must be all but desirable at Redmond, mostly when the competitor is led by a former Microsoft general that knows pretty much everything about the OS business.
According to the initial reports, Attachmate will take care of the SLES business, but the ownership of almost 900 patents may turn VMware uncomfortable enough to drop its plan to standardize on Novell’s OS.

These are only speculations. None of the companies involved are currently disclosing the exact distribution of these assets.

Hopefully they will soon. Meanwhile it would be helpful if VMware would formally comment on the deal, announcing what will happen to the OEM agreement in place, and what are its plan for it going forward.

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