As the details of Attachmate’s acquisition of Novell become available, I wanted to add a few more observations to the discussion.
First, I’m struck by the level and intensity of interest in the acquisition itself. While Novell has been in the industry for many years (founded in 1979!), its revenues and relative size seem out of proportion to the level of speculation and analysis that I’ve seen in the past 24 hours. Of course, being an analyst that has covered Novell for almost a decade, perhaps I’m too close to this. But so are many others, ranging from ISV channel watchers to Linux pundits, from analysts in email/collaboration to systems resource management. As a result, there’s a lot to read today, each from many different perspectives. Finding your way to a broad view of Novell becomes increasingly difficult– we seem to view the company as the sum of its parts rather than a whole. And therein may lie one of the swan songs of the company. While Novell executives were striving to weave these separate stories together into a business view of “intelligent workload management”, it remained difficult to give up the legacy, tactical solution messages that had served them well in the past.
Novell underwent a series of transformations in its lifetime, and in doing so entered many facets of IT through acquisition and development. The company essentially remade itself several times in an attempt to remain relevant to the market. In doing so, it amassed an impressive array of patents across many different IT infrastructure disciplines, in operating systems, security, storage, and networking, to name a few. Of the stories about the acquisition, this one is particularly intriguing. I can understand the goal of Attachmate in acquiring and utilizing mature and established solutions. I can also understand their desire to avail themselves of Novell’s cloud strategy and efforts to grow the systems resource management space. But it’s the patent deal that I find truly interesting.
There is much speculation occurring at present in exactly what is in the 800+ patents that the consortium of companies CPTN Holdings will purchase. Of course, CPTN Holdings didn’t exist before November 2010, so you have to wonder who knew what and when they knew it (baby boomers, do you remember this phrase?). The role of Microsoft in this is becoming more interesting as this sale develops. Time (and SEC filings) will provide a clearer answer. It makes open source and Linux users of all stripes nervous, though, until we know more. It is disconcerting to see the volatility of open source support increasing after the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle, and now this acquisition. While one tries to remain optimistic, my cynical view of markets tends to prepare for the worst instead of hoping for the best.
In the midst of all of this of course is the identity and access management impact. I see challenges for Quest Software ahead, since they often go head-to-head with Attachmate-NetIQ for Microsoft centric administration customers. I see some relief for the “Big Three” in IAM now, CA, IBM Tivoli, and Oracle, now that a spoiler in many ways may be out for a bit during the ‘absorption’ phase of acquisition. I see advantages for smaller and more nimble players such as Courion, as well as obvious beneficiaries like Microsoft. What will be interesting to see in the days ahead is the impact this has on Novell partners: Verizon in cloud security, VMWare in virtuatization, SAP in IAM, and Deloitte in IAM consulting and system integration. One would expect Attachmate not to shoot the goose that lays golden eggs, but you never know.
And there remains the unspoken question on whether the sales are over.
Other than that, it is pretty quiet going into the holiday period. Remember, there’s till more days left in the year for more acquisition excitement in the IAM industry.
Gartner is preparing an Event note on this topic that will consolidate the analysis of literally dozens of analysts that have covered and do cover Novell and Attachmate as a whole. It should be released within weeks. In the meantime, Novell customers should be calm and not take hasty action. Be prepared to make your feelings known to Attachmate on a variety of topics, not the least of which is ongoing maintenance and support contracts for existing Novell deployments. This was a problem area in the Oracle-Sun acquisition, and it is often a sore point in most acquisitions. Observe the split of Novell among Attachmate divisions carefully to determine the impact on roadmaps you may have that combined Novell solutions in the past. Stay tuned for more speculation and analysis in the days ahead.
And buckle your seatbelts.
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