novell-john-dragoonThe VAR Guy has openly wondered -- again and again -- whether Novell will ever connect the dots between its various products groups. A potential answer to that question emerged today. It involves Novell's Intelligent Workload Management (IWM) strategy, which melds cloud and virtualization opportunities with Novell's solutions, according to Chief Marketing Officer John Dragoon (pictured). Here's the scoop, and the implications for solutions providers.

Before we dive into the IWM strategy, it's important  to understand Novell's product mix and performance. For its Q4 ended Oct. 31, Novell reported:
  • Linux Platform Products sales of $39 million, up a respectable 14% compared to the same period last year;
  • Identity, Access and Compliance Management revenue dropped 14%;
  • Systems and Resource Management dropped 10%; and
  • Workgroup product revenue dropped 15%.
Novell's challenge: Further accelerating SUSE Linux sales vs. Red Hat, while shifting its shrinking businesses into growth mode. Oh, and Novell somehow needs to tie together all of those disparate product efforts across the channel.

Enter IWM

That's where Novell's new IWM strategy enters the picture. Chief Marketing Officer John Dragoon is quick to note that Novell is not trying to invent a market with IWM. Instead, Novell wants to lead the emerging market, where rivals like BMC and CA already offer some software components, he adds.

According to Novell's official press announcement, the IWM strategy:

"unifies identity and systems management, transforming the way enterprises securely manage and optimize computing resources across physical, virtual and cloud environments."

Novell goes on to say:

"A workload is a portable, self-contained unit of work built through the integration of the operating system, middleware and application. With Intelligent Workload Management, organizations can build, secure, manage and measure workloads."

To be clear, Dragoon says Novell is not launching its own SaaS application store or cloud platform. Instead, Novell wants partners and customers to embrace IWM for their own public and private cloud efforts.

Novell's IWM effort includes tools to help ISVs and customers:
  • build intelligent workloads. Here, Novell has an apparent hit on its hands. The company's SUSE Appliance Toolkit has been well-received in recent months.
  • address identity and security needs.
  • manage and move workloads. Novell's PlateSpin acquisition could play a key role here.
  • measure the performance of IT operations. Offerings like Business Service Manager and Novell Sentinal Log Manager could be critical here.

Opportunities and Challenges Ahead

It's official: For the first time in more than a decade, Novell is talking about a single strategy -- IWM -- that involves all of the company's products. At least that's The VAR Guy's spin on the situation.

Now comes the hard part: Cross-training partners to sell, service and support all of those offerings. Partners will either need to go broad on all the Novell solutions or go deep in a Novell segment or two. For those that go narrow and deep, Novell will need a way to help partners network up with one another.

The Ultimate Question

Novell continues to have its share of skeptics. Novell's Q4 results certainly didn't impress Wall Street when they arrived Dec. 3.

The big question:
  • Is Novell being proactive, accurately spotting an emerging IWM market opportunity that leverages all of its core products?
  • Or is Novell being reactive, trying to force-fit all of its products into an all-defining company strategy?
The VAR Guy will continue to watch Novell closely as the IWM strategy unfolds.

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