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Novell, Inc.
TypePublic (until 2011)
IndustryComputer software
FateAcquired by The Attachmate Group, then by Micro Focus International
Founded1979; 42 years ago (1979)
Orem, Utah, United States
DefunctNovember 2014 (2014-11)
United States
Number of employees
4,000 (2008) Edit this on Wikidata
ParentMicro Focus International

Novell, Inc. /nˈvɛl/ was an American software and services company headquartered in Provo, Utah. Its most significant product was the multi-platform network operating system known as Novell NetWare, which became the dominant form of personal computer networking during the second half of the 1980s and first half of the 1990s. At its high point, NetWare had a 63 percent share of the market for network operating systems,[1] and by the early 1990s there were over half a million NetWare-based networks installed worldwide.[2] Novell technology contributed to the emergence of local area networks, which displaced the dominant mainframe computing model and changed computing worldwide. Novell became instrumental in making Utah Valley a focus for technology and software development.

Under the leadership of Ray Noorda, during the early- to mid-1990s Novell attempted to compete directly with Microsoft by acquiring Digital Research,[3][4][5] Unix System Laboratories,[6] WordPerfect, and the Quattro Pro division of Borland. These moves did not work out, and NetWare began losing market share once Microsoft bundled network services with the Windows NT operating system and its successors. Despite new products such as Novell Directory Services and GroupWise, Novell entered a long period of decline. Eventually Novell acquired SUSE Linux and attempted to refocus its technology base.

The company was an independent corporate entity until it was acquired as a wholly owned subsidiary by The Attachmate Group in 2011, which in turn was acquired in 2014 by Micro Focus International. Novell products and technologies are now integrated within various Micro Focus divisions.


Origins as a hardware company[edit]

Novell's chief scientist was Drew Major, here seen later in his career

The company began in 1979[7] in Orem, Utah as Novell Data Systems Inc. (NDSI), a hardware manufacturer producing CP/M-based systems. Former Eyring Research Institute (ERI) employee Dennis Fairclough was a member of the original team. It was co-founded by George Canova, Darin Field, and Jack Davis.[citation needed] Victor V. Vurpillat brought the deal to Pete Musser, chairman of the board of Safeguard Scientifics, Inc., who provided the seed funding.

The company initially did not do well. The microcomputer produced by the company was comparatively weak against performance by competitors.

In order to compete on systems sales Novell Data Systems planned a program to link more than one microcomputer to operate together. The former ERI employees Drew Major, Dale Neibaur and Kyle Powell, known as the SuperSet Software group, were hired to this task.

At ERI, Fairclough, Major, Neibaur and Powell had worked on government contracts for the Intelligent Systems Technology Project, and thereby gained an important insight into the ARPANET and related technologies, ideas which would become crucial to the foundation of Novell.

Novell retained some hardware products even after NetWare became a success; here, a Novell NE2000 16-bit ISA 10Base-2 Ethernet card from 1990

The Safeguard board then ordered Musser to shut Novell down. Musser contacted two Safeguard investors and investment bankers, Barry Rubenstein and Fred Dolin, who guaranteed to raise the necessary funds to continue the business as a software company as Novell Data Systems' networking program could work on computers from other companies.

Davis left Novell Data Systems in November 1981, followed by Canova in March 1982.

Rubinstein and Dolin, along with Jack Messman, interviewed and hired Noorda. The required funding was obtained through a rights offering to Safeguard shareholders, managed by the Cleveland brokerage house, Prescott, Ball and Turben, and guaranteed by Rubenstein and Dolin.

Major, Neibaur and Powell continued to support Novell through their SuperSet Software Group.

In January 1983, the company's name was shortened to "Novell, Inc.", and Noorda became the head of the firm. Later that same year, the company introduced its most significant product, the multi-platform network operating system (NOS), Novell NetWare.


Floppy disks for NetWare 2.2
The annual Novell BrainShare conference, here with its entrance letters in 1995, helped spread the word about how developers and partners could make use of NetWare
Novell's Building F in Provo in 1994, part of a large complex of Novell buildings once there, with the Wasatch Range in the background

The first Novell product was a proprietary hardware server based on the Motorola 68000 CPU supporting six MUX ports per board for a maximum of four boards per server using a star topology with twisted pair cabling. A network interface card (NIC) was developed for the IBM PC industry standard architecture (ISA) bus. The server was using the first network operating system (NOS) called ShareNet (aka S-Net). Later, ShareNet was ported to run on the Intel platform and renamed NetWare. The first commercial release of NetWare was version 1.5.

Novell based its network protocol on Xerox Network Systems (XNS), and created its own standards from IDP and SPP, which it named Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX) and Sequenced Packet Exchange (SPX). File and print services ran on the NetWare Core Protocol (NCP) over IPX, as did Routing Information Protocol (RIP) and Service Advertising Protocol (SAP).

Novell had acquired Kanwal Rekhi's company Excelan in 1989, which manufactured smart Ethernet cards and commercialized the Internet protocol TCP/IP, solidifying Novell's presence in these niche areas.

Novell did extremely well throughout the 1980s. It aggressively expanded its market share by selling its expensive Ethernet cards at cost. By 1990, Novell had an almost monopolistic position in NOS for any business requiring a network. Microsoft tried on two early occasions to take on Novell in networking, first with the MS-NET product and then with LAN Manager, but both failed badly.[8] Novell's employee base, which had been just 17 when Noorda joined, eventually rose to 12,000.[9] Noorda became known as the "Father of Network Computing".[9]

With this market leadership, Novell began to acquire and build services on top of its NetWare operating platform. These services extended NetWare's capabilities with such products as NetWare for SAA, Novell multi-protocol router, GroupWise and BorderManager.

However, Novell was also diversifying, moving away from its smaller users to target large corporations, although the company later attempted to refocus with NetWare for Small Business. It reduced investment in research and was slow to improve the product administration tools, although it was helped by the fact its products typically needed little "tweaking" — they just ran.

Taking on Microsoft[edit]


By the early 1990s, stock market analysts were expressing concern that Noorda, whose personality was the basis for much of the company's culture, had no succession plan in place.[10] At the same time, Novell faced a looming challenge from Microsoft's upcoming Windows NT operating system, which featured bundled networking and looked to be that company's first offering that could seriously challenge Novell's dominance in the local area networking market.[11] Under Noorda, Novell made a series of acquisitions interpreted by many to be a direct challenge to Microsoft.[12][13] Noorda was motivated in part by a realization that NetWare's technology was not suitable as the basis for a full-fledged operating system and application platform.[14] There was also enmity between the two companies and the two CEOs, stemming in part from merger talks between Noorda and Microsoft head Bill Gates that had begun in 1989 and been on-and-off for the next couple of years before breaking down for good.[8] Subsequently Novell played a role in keeping the Federal Trade Commission investigation into Microsoft going.[15]

Accordingly, between 1991 and 1994 the Noorda-led Novell made a series of major acquisitions: Digital Research Inc., producer of DR-DOS, to compete with Microsoft's MS-DOS; Unix System Laboratories, holder of Unix operating system technology, to improve Novell's technology base versus Windows NT; Serius Corp., maker of an advanced application development tool; and WordPerfect Corporation and Quattro Pro from Borland to provide personal productivity and group collaboration products.[8] In all, Noorda acquired ten companies within a four-year span.[8] By September 1993, Business Week was writing, "Of the many rivalries in the personal-computer industry, for sheer nastiness it's hard to beat the one between Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc."[15] In November 1993, Noorda confirmed published reports that he had been suffering from some memory lapses and announced that he would be stepping down from the CEO position once a successor was found.[10]

In April 1994, former HP executive Robert Frankenberg was announced as the new CEO of Novell, with Noorda remaining as chairman of the board of directors.[16] By then the USL acquisition was already showing difficulties, while the WordPerfect acquisition was questioned even more.[16] Nonetheless, Frankenberg said he was enthusiastic about it: "For me, it was a pivotal item in my decision to join Novell because it makes possible an entirely new category of networked applications which no one else can provide."[16] When the WordPerfect and Quattro Pro acquisitions closed in June 1994, it was the largest such deal in the software industry to that time; it made Novell the third largest software company in the world, trailing only Microsoft and Computer Associates.[17]

Noorda retired from the chairman position and left Novell completely in November 1994, although he was still the largest shareholder of the company.[18] At that point in time, Frankenberg became chairman as well.[19]

Desktop OS and embedded systems: DOS, NEST, and Corsair[edit]

Novell acquired Digital Research for US$80 million in June 1991.[3][4][13][5] NetWare used DR DOS as a boot loader and maintenance platform, and Novell intended to extend its desktop presence by integrating networking into DR DOS and providing an alternative to Microsoft's Windows. At first, the idea was to provide a graphical environment based on Digital Research's GEM, but Novell's legal department rejected this due to apprehension of a possible legal response from Apple, so the company went directly to Apple starting Star Trek in February 1992, a project to run an x86-port of their Mac OS on top of a multitasking DR DOS.

Novell had already abandoned Digital Research's Multiuser DOS in 1992. The three former Master Value Added Resellers (VARs) DataPac Australasia, Concurrent Controls[20] and Intelligent Micro Software[21] could license the source code to take over and continue independent development of their derivations in 1994.

Digital Research's FlexOS had been licensed to IBM for their 4690 OS in 1993 and was also utilized for the in-house development of Novell's Embedded Systems Technology (NEST), but was sold off to Integrated Systems, Inc. (ISI) for US$3 million in July 1994. The deal comprised a direct payment of half this sum as well as shares representing 2% of the company.

NEST however held importance for Frankenberg's vision of "pervasive computing", wherein Novell software would be connecting a billion nodes by 2000.[22] Many of those nodes would be common, everyday devices running NEST.[22]

Novell also abandoned their Corsair desktop project and in late 1994 transferred some components to Caldera, a startup funded by Noorda's Canopy Group. The Canopy Group was an technology investment firm and real estate company that Noorda focused on after his department from Novell.[9]

Novell DOS (and all former DR DOS versions including StarTrek, PalmDOS and DOS Plus) as well as other remaining Digital Research assets (like GEM and the CP/M- and MP/M-based operating systems, programming languages, tools and technologies) were sold to Caldera on 23 July 1996. Personal NetWare had been abandoned at Novell in 1995 but was licensed to Caldera in binary form only. The deal consisted of a direct payment of US$400,000 as well as percentual royalties for any revenues derived from those assets to Novell.

In January 1997, Novell's NEST initiative was abandoned as well.[23][24][25]

Server OS: UnixWare and SuperNOS[edit]

Novell's Summit, New Jersey, office, 1994 (formerly Unix System Laboratories)

On the server side, after their initial October 1991 Univel initiative[26] Novell announced in December 1992 that it was buying Unix System Laboratories (USL) from AT&T Corporation.[27] The measure was intended to help Novell compete against Microsoft, which was on the verge of including networking as a built-in feature of Windows in conjunction with the Windows NT server.[27][28] Unix did present some attractive characteristics to the market, such as the lack of vendor lock-in,[10] but there were still considerable obstacles to be overcome in using it in this context.[28]

The deal closed in June 1993,[6][29] with Novell acquiring rights to the Unix SVR4 source base and the UnixWare operating system product. Novell then turned the Unix brand name and specification over to the industry consortium X/Open.[10] Novell created the Unix Systems Group to contain the new business, which also absorbed the Univel venture.[29] Most of the core USL employees remained in USL's Summit, New Jersey facility, until it was relocated to Florham Park, New Jersey in the summer of 1995.[30] The USL Europe office in London was moved into Novell's facility in Bracknell, Berkshire.[31]

Novell's time with Unix technology saw the release of UnixWare 1.1 in January 1994 in both personal and advanced server editions and which saw the bundled inclusion of TCP/IP, a NetWare Unix Client, and Merge functionality for running DOS and Windows 3.1 applications.[32] This was followed in early 1995 by the release of UnixWare 2.0, which included full support for multiple processors as well as improved installation and ease-of-use and additional NetWare integration features.[33]

In September 1994 Novell began publicly describing its plans to develop a "SuperNOS", a microkernel-based network operating system based on NetWare 4.1 and UnixWare 2.0.[34][8] The aim was to include UnixWare technology inside NetWare, provide the strengths of both NetWare's network services and UnixWare's application services, be able to run existing NetWare Loadable Modules and Unix executables, and accordingly create a network operating system that could successfully compete with Microsoft's Windows NT.[35][36] SuperNOS would also operate across distributed servers with unified presentation and take advantage of object-oriented programming paradigms as a way of fostering easier application development.[22]

SuperNOS was based on work that had already started at USL and at the French company Chorus Systèmes SA for cooperative work on the Chorus microkernel technology in the context of supporting SVR4 on a microkernel.[37] (Novell architects deemed this microkernel superior to the more well-known Mach one.[38]) By mid-1995 the project was reportedly about one-third completed, with 1997 being seen as a customer release date for it.[36] There were over 60 engineers on it, mostly from the UnixWare and Chorus side, but the project endured prolonged internal architectural debates and resistance from the NetWare side due to a reluctance to believe that Unix was really superior to NetWare in key aspects.[35] In any case the 1997 date was seen by industry observers as being too late to forestall the marketshare gains that Windows NT was already making.[36]

The acquisition of USL never really worked out for Novell.[39] During the company's fiscal years of 1993, 1994, and 1995, it represented only about 5 percent of the company's revenue on an ongoing basis.[40] Very few Certified NetWare Engineers ever reached a similar level of involvement with UnixWare.[38] Another aim, that Novell might be able to coalesce vender versions and resolve the Unix wars, was not achieved either.[41] By late summer 1995 the company was looking for a way out of the Unix business.[42]

In September 1995, Novell announced the sale of UnixWare to the Santa Cruz Operation, coincident with a licensing arrangement with Hewlett Packard.[43] As part of the deal, SCO said that it would merge the SVR4.2-based UnixWare with its existing SVR3.2-based OpenServer operating system and add NetWare services to the new merged product, code-named "Gemini".[43][44] Gemini would then be sold through SCO's well-known channel and reseller operation.[43] As for HP, they said they would add NetWare code and NetWare Directory Services to their own version of Unix, HP-UX, in combination with Distributed Computing Environment elements, which would then be sold by HP's strong direct-sales force.[43] Finally, SCO and HP said that they would co-develop a next-generation, 64-bit version of Unix.[45] Some 400 Novell software engineers had been working on UnixWare; most of them were offered jobs with either SCO or HP, while a few remained with Novell.[43][45]

While some lip service was paid to the notion that SuperNOS would go on after the three-way deal,[46] in fact, it was abandoned and never achieved fruition in that form.[47][48][41][49] (A decade later, Novell's Open Enterprise Server product would finally realize the idea of a hybrid NetWare/Unix-like system, this time based around SUSE Linux Enterprise Server rather than UnixWare.[49])

By December, there were already some indications that the three-way arrangement was not working out as had been initially advertised.[44] The computer industry was not sure that SCO could handle being the primary Unix shepherd.[42] The HP project, code-named "White Box", focused on making a hybrid environment out of the SRV4.2-based Gemini and the SVR3.2-based HP-UX, but that effort faced major technical hurdles.[44] The terms of the deal between Novell and SCO, which closed in December 1995,[50] were uncertain enough that an amendment had to be signed in October 1996, and even that was not clear enough to preclude an extended battle between the two companies during the SCO-Linux disputes of the 2000s.[42]

Tools: AppWare[edit]

In June 1993, Novell purchased Serius Corp., a firm that made a graphical programming language that could construct applications by connecting together icons representing objects in the program and their commands.[51] Novell also purchased Software Transformations Inc., who made a cross-platform object code library that could be used to port conventional programs to a number of platforms.[52] The disparate technologies of the two products were combined and renamed to AppWare, with the Serius product being called AppWare Visual AppBuilder, the objects it used AppWare Loadable Modules, and the Software Transformations library AppWare Foundation. The organization working on this was called the AppWare Systems Group.[17] The founder of Serius, Joe Firmage, became vice president of strategy for Novell's Network Systems Group.[14]

AppWare was one of the three main strategic focuses of Novell during this period, along with NetWare and UnixWare.[53] These three prongs were intended to satisfy the growing need for scalable, distributed computing at the enterprise level of applications such as general ledger systems or reservation systems; as Novell executive Jim Tolonen outlined: "[NetWare] being the underlying infrastructure over which those mission critical transactions will be moved, Unix [being] a place on which the applications can run, and AppWare as tools that will help programmers write that class of application in a distributed environment."[53]

It was not long before the AppWare plans started to fall apart. In September 1994 Novell announced they would be selling the Appware Founcation product to a third party. Novell did state that development of Visual AppBuilder would continue, and a Unix port would be following (that did not materialize). Novell also continued to release a number of new Appware Loadable Modules.[54]

Joe Firmage became disillusioned with Novell in mid-1995, following its decision to sell UnixWare and abandon the SuperNOS project, and left Novell later that year.[14] Novell then publicly stated in November 1995 that it was looking for a buyer for AppWare.[55] In March 1996, it was announced (based on an agreement that had been signed the month before) that Novell had sold all rights to the AppWare technology to a new company called Network Multimedia Inc., which was headed by Ed Firmage, who had been director of AppWare marketing at Novell.[56]

Applications: WordPerfect, Quattro Pro, and GroupWise[edit]

The WordPerfect building in Orem, Utah, with Novell signage, in 1994
Novell's PerfectOffice suite, reflecting the purchases of WordPerfect and Quattro Pro

In March 1994, Novell announced that it was acquiring WordPerfect Corporation, whose primary product was the WordPerfect word processor, as well as acquiring the Quattro Pro spreadsheet from Borland.[57] Novell executives said that goal of the acquisitions was to build a suite of products that could be connected across the network via NetWare and UnixWare.[57] Key to this was the idea of "groupware" for collaboration.[57] Noorda said, "The era of stand-alone personal computing is evolving into group collaboration that connects individuals, groups and companies. Novell's objective is to accelerate this market transition."[57] The geographical proximity, as well as the cultural similarity, between the two companies also made the acquisition seem like a good idea.[58] The merger, and acquisition from Borland, both closed on June 24, 1994 (with the public announcement being made on June 27).[17] Work on the acquired products was organized into the company's Application Group.[17] Both before and after the acquisition, there were substantial layoffs of WordPerfect staff.[59]

The market for standalone word processors and spreadsheets was expanding to that of office suites, where Microsoft Office had an early lead in marketshare.[60] To compete, Novell PerfectOffice 3.0 was released released in December 1994.[60] It was based upon an earlier effort, Borland Office 2.0 for Windows, but had superior look-and-feel and integration.[61] It contained not just WordPerfect and Quattro Pro but also other products, most of which had originated at WordPerfect Corporation, including Presentations for slides preparation, a personal information manager called InfoCentral, and the GroupWise collaboration product.[61] There was also a professional edition that included AppWare as well as Borland's Paradox database.[61] Industry analyst reaction was that PerfectOffice 3.0 was a good product but was arriving too late to head off Microsoft Office's momentum.[60]

WordPerfect also played in a role in larger architectural ambitions within Novell, as WordPerfect incorporated OpenDoc and IBM System Object Model technology.[62] These became part of the basis for Novell's larger distributed object strategy.[63][37] That strategy was tied to having supporting multiple object request brokers that could tie in NetWare Loadable Modules, the AppWare Bus, UnixWare, and eventually SuperNOS itself.[63][37] WordPerfect itself was also supposedly using the AppWare foundation layer in its work.[53]

During its time in Novell, WordPerfect still sold reasonably well as standalone software, garnering almost half of all such word processsor sales; but the market was increasingly dominated by the idea of office suites, and there Microsoft Office was supreme, with 86 percent of the market compared to only 5 percent for Novell's PerfectOffice.[64] As such, the WordPerfect and Quattro Pro part of the company dragged down Novell's earnings and stock price.[64]

Novell stated in November 1995 that it was putting its personal productivity product line up for sale.[40] Then in January 1996 it announced that the sale of these products, primarily WordPerfect and Quattro Pro, would be made to Corel for $186 million, a large loss from the $855 million that it had originally paid to acquire WordPerfect.[64] Novell did hold onto a few pieces that it had acquired from WordPerfect, most importantly the GroupWise collaboration product.[64] The sale to Corel was completed in March 1996.[59]


But none of these acquisitions worked out well – for instance, Novell suffered a net loss of $35 million for its 1993 fiscal year, largely due to write-offs for the acquisitions[16] – and many of the companies and products he had purchased were subsequently sold off. The Noorda-era acquisitions were short-lived.[19]

The business press was negative on the whole attempt: The New York Times referred to "acquisitions Mr. Noorda had made in his latter years in a disastrous attempt to compete head-on with Microsoft",[19] while the San Francisco Chronicle talked of "a disastrous acquisition spree undertaken by previous CEO Ray Noorda in an effort to compete with Microsoft."[65] By the year 2000, The Age would say that "The WordPerfect acquisition was the biggest disaster in software history".[58]

Novell continued to have mediocre-at-best financial results during 1995 and 1996.[65] In August 1996, Frankenberg himself departed Novell in what was variously portrayed as a mutual decision,[19] or as a resignation under pressure from the company's board of directors.[65][66] His 2½ years there had been marked by having to dissasemble Noorda's acquisitions but also by failing to fully recognize the growing importance of the Internet for networking applications.[19][66]

Back to NetWare[edit]

Novell's core products did not stay idle during this challenging-of-Microsoft time, as work in the company's NetWare Systems Group continued.[17] One of Novell's major innovations was Novell Directory Services (NDS), later known as eDirectory. Introduced with NetWare 4.0 in 1993, NDS replaced the old Bindery server and user management technology employed by NetWare 3.x and earlier. Then with UnixWare gone, Novell focused on major upgrades to its core NetWare-based network operating system.[46] However some 40 million users declined to upgrade to NetWare 4, with the result that Novell lost large amounts of possible revenue in upgrades.[48]

In 1996, the company began a move into Internet-enabled products, replacing reliance on the proprietary IPX protocol in favor of a native TCP/IP stack. The move was accelerated when Eric Schmidt became CEO in April 1997, the first in the post since Frankenberg's departure; Christopher Stone was brought in as senior vice president of strategy and corporate development, reporting to Schmidt.

The result was NetWare 5.0, released in October 1998, with hopes for it accelerating Novell's improved fortunes under Schmidt.[48] NetWare 5.0 leveraged and built upon eDirectory and introduced new functions, such as Novell Cluster Services (NCS, a replacement for SFT-III) and Novell Storage Services (NSS), a replacement for the traditional Turbo FAT filesystem used by earlier versions of NetWare. While NetWare 5.0 introduced native TCP/IP support into the NOS, IPX was still supported, allowing for smooth transitions between environments and avoiding the "forklift upgrades" frequently required by competing environments. Similarly, the traditional Turbo FAT file system remained a supported option.


The inclusion of networking as a core system component in all mainstream PC operating systems after 1995 led to a steep decline in Novell's market share. Unlike Windows 3.1 and its predecessors, Windows NT, Windows 95, Linux, and OS/2 all included network functionality which greatly reduced demand for third-party products in this segment. For instance, one mid-1996 survey of a thousand corporate users, conducted by Forrester Research, showed that 90 percent of them owned NetWare but only 20 percent said they had upgraded to the latest NetWare version and less than half of the users thought they would still be using NetWare three years hence.[66]

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Novell from 1997 to 2001

Novell's decline and loss of market share accelerated under Eric Schmidt's leadership, with Novell experiencing an across-the-board decline in sales and purchases of NetWare and a drop in share price from US$40.00/share to US$7.00/share. Analysts commented that the primary reason for Novell's demise was linked to its channel strategy and mismanagement of channel partners under Schmidt.[67][68][69]

Under Ray Noorda's leadership, Novell provided upgrades to resellers and customers in the same packaging as a newly purchased copy of NetWare, but at one third the cost, which created a "gray market" that allowed NetWare resellers to sell upgrades as newly purchased NetWare versions at full price periodically, which Novell intentionally did not track. Ray Noorda commented to several analysts that he devised this strategy to allow front line resellers to "punch through" the distributors like Tech Data and Ingram and acquire NetWare versions at a discounted rate, as Novell "looked the other way"; this helped fund the salaries of Novell Field Support Technicians, who for the most part were employees who worked for the front line resellers as Novell CNE (Certified NetWare Engineers).

Noorda commented that this strategy was one he learned as an executive at General Electric when competing against imported home appliances: allow the resellers to "make more money off your product than someone else's". Eric Schmidt embarked on a disastrous strategy to remove the upgrades as whole box products without understanding Novell's channel dynamics, then directed Novell's general counsel to initiate litigation against a large number of Novell resellers who were routinely selling upgrades as newly purchased NetWare versions.

Although this move bolstered Novell's revenue numbers for several quarters, Novell's channels subsequently collapsed with the majority of Novell's resellers dropping NetWare for fear of litigation.[70][71][72][73]

Novell had a development office in Bracknell, Berkshire, UK for many years (here seen in 2006)

By 1999, Novell had lost its dominant market position, and was continually being out-marketed by Microsoft as resellers dropped NetWare, allowing Microsoft to gain access to corporate data centers by bypassing technical staff and selling directly to corporate executives. Most resellers then re-certified their Novell CNE employees— the field support technicians who were Novell's primary contact in the field with direct customers—as Microsoft MCSE technicians, and were encouraged[by whom?] to position NetWare as inferior to Windows 2000 features such as Group Policy and Microsoft's GUI, which was considered to be more modern than the character-based Novell interfaces. With falling revenue, the company focused on net services and platform interoperability. Products such as eDirectory and GroupWise were made multi-platform.

In October 2000, Novell released a new product, dubbed "DirXML", which was designed to synchronize data—typically user information—between disparate directory and database systems. This product leveraged the speed and functionality of eDirectory to store information, and would later become the Novell Identity Manager, forming the foundation of a core product set within Novell.

Cambridge Technology Partners[edit]

In the early 2000s Novell moved its headquarters to this building in Waltham, Massachusetts, following the acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners

In July 2001, Novell acquired the consulting company Cambridge Technology Partners (CTP), founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts by John J. Donovan, to expand offerings into services. Novell felt that the ability to offer solutions (a combination of software and services) was key to satisfying customer demand. The merger was apparently against the firm's software development culture, and the finance personnel at the firm also recommended against it.

The CEO of CTP, Jack Messman, engineered the merger using his position as a board member of Novell since its inception, and as part of the deal became CEO of Novell. Chris Stone, who had left in 1999, was rehired as vice chairman to set the course for Novell's strategy into open source and enterprise Linux. With the acquisition of CTP, Novell moved its headquarters to Massachusetts.[74]

In July 2002, Novell acquired SilverStream Software, a leader in web services-oriented applications, but a laggard in the marketplace. Renamed to Novell exteNd, the platform comprised XML and web service tools based on Java EE.


SuSE Linux headquarters and Novell office in Nuremberg in 2007

In August 2003, Novell acquired Ximian, a developer of open source Linux applications (Evolution, Red Carpet and Mono). This acquisition signaled Novell's plans to move its collective product set onto a Linux kernel.

In November 2003, Novell acquired Linux OS developer SuSE, which led to a major shift of power in Linux distributions. IBM also invested US$50 million to show support of the SuSE acquisition.

In mid-2003, Novell released "Novell Enterprise Linux Services" (NNLS), which ported some of the services traditionally associated with NetWare to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) version 8.

In November 2004, Novell released the Linux-based enterprise desktop Novell Linux Desktop 9, based on Ximian Desktop and SUSE Linux Professional 9.1. This was Novell's first attempt to get into the enterprise desktop market.

The successor product to NetWare, Open Enterprise Server, was released in March 2005. OES offers all the services previously hosted by NetWare 6.5, and added the choice of delivering those services using either a NetWare 6.5 or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 kernel. The release was aimed to persuade NetWare customers to move to Linux.

In August 2005, Novell created the openSUSE project, based on SUSE Professional.[75] openSUSE can be downloaded freely and is also available as boxed retail product.[76]


Novell with SuSE at the Invex expo in Brno, Czech Republic in 2006

From 2003 through 2005 Novell released many products across its portfolio, with the intention of arresting falling market share and to move away from dependencies on other Novell products, but the launches were not as successful as Novell had hoped. In late 2004, Chris Stone again left the company, after an apparent control issue with then CEO Jack Messman.[77] In an effort to cut costs, Novell announced a round of layoffs in late 2005. While revenue from its Linux business continued to grow, the growth was not fast enough to offset the decrease in revenue of NetWare. While the company's revenue was not falling rapidly, it wasn't growing, either. Lack of clear direction or effective management meant that Novell took longer than expected to complete its restructuring.

In June 2006, chief executive Jack Messman and chief finance officer Joseph Tibbetts were fired, with Ronald Hovsepian, Novell's president and chief operating officer, appointed chief executive, and Dana Russell, vice-president of finance and corporate controller, appointed interim CFO.

"Your Linux is Ready"[edit]

Novell's booth at a 2007 event in Beijing, showing slogan

In August 2006, Novell released the SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 (SLE 10) series. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server was the first enterprise class Linux server to offer virtualization based on the Xen hypervisor. SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (popularly known as SLED) featured a new user-friendly GUI and XGL-based 3D display capabilities. The release of SLE 10 was marketed with the phrase "Your Linux is Ready", meant to convey that Novell's Linux offerings were ready for the enterprise. In late September 2006 Novell announced a real-time version of SLES called "SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time" (SLERT), based on technology from Concurrent Computer Corporation.

Agreement with Microsoft[edit]

In 2004, Novell sued Microsoft, asserting it had engaged in antitrust violations regarding Novell's WordPerfect business in 1994 through 1996. Novell's lawsuit was subsequently dismissed by the United States District Court in July 2012 after it concluded that the claims were without merit.[78]

On 2 November 2006, the two companies announced a joint collaboration agreement, including coverage of their respective products for each other's customers.[79][80] They also promised to work more closely to improve compatibility of software, setting up a joint research facility. Executives of both companies expressed the hope that such cooperation would lead to better compatibility between Microsoft Office and and better virtualization techniques.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said of the deal, "This set of agreements will really help bridge the divide between open-source and proprietary source software."[81] The deal involved upfront payment of US$348 million from Microsoft to Novell for patent cooperation and SLES subscription. Additionally, Microsoft agreed to spend around US$46 million yearly, over the next 5 years, for marketing and selling a combined SLES/Windows Server offering and related virtualization solutions, while Novell paid at least US$40 million yearly to Microsoft, in the same period.[82]

One of the first results of this partnership was Novell adapting the OpenXML/ODF Translator[83] for use in[84]

Microsoft released two public covenants not to sue users of the open source Moonlight runtime—a workalike for the Microsoft Silverlight rich media platform—for patent infringement. One condition common to each covenant was that no Moonlight implementation be released under the GPLv3 free software license.[85][86]

Reaction of FLOSS community[edit]

Despite controversy with some in the community, Novell persisted: its booth at Solutions Linux 2009 in Paris.

Initial reaction from members of the FOSS community over the patent protection was mostly critical, with expressions of concern that Novell had "sold out" and doubt that the GNU GPL would allow distribution of code, including the Linux kernel, under this exclusive agreement.[87][88][89]

In a letter to the FOSS development community on 9 November 2006, Bradley M. Kuhn, CTO of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), described the agreement as "worse than useless".[90] In a separate development, the chairman of the SFLC, Eben Moglen, reported that Novell had offered cooperation with the SFLC to permit a confidential audit to determine the compliance of the agreement with the GPL (version 2).[91] Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, said in November 2006 that changes coming with version 3 of the GPL would preclude such deals.[92] When the final revision of the third version of the GPL license was decided, the deal between Microsoft and Novell was grandfathered in. A clause within GPLv3 allows companies to distribute GPLv3 software even if they have made such patent partnerships in the past, as long as the partnership deal was made before 28 March 2007 (GPLv3 Section 11 paragraph 7[93]).

On 12 November 2006, the Samba team expressed strong disapproval of the announcement[clarification needed] and asked Novell to reconsider.[94] The team included an employee of Novell, Jeremy Allison, who confirmed in a comment on Slashdot that the statement was agreed on by all members of the team,[95] and later quit his job at Novell in protest.[96]

In early February 2007, Reuters reported that the Free Software Foundation had announced that it was reviewing Novell's right to sell Linux versions, and was considering banning Novell from selling Linux.[97] However, spokesman Eben Moglen later said that he was quoted out of context,[98] and was only noting that GPL version 3 would be designed to block similar deals in the future.

Intelligent workload management[edit]

In December 2009, Novell announced its intention to lead the market in intelligent workload management, with products designed to manage diverse workloads in a heterogeneous data center.[99]

Acquisition by The Attachmate Group[edit]

The main building in Provo in 2013 during the Attachmate Group era; the name Novell was kept on it. A 'For Sale' sign for some of the property can be seen in front of the building.

Novell had long been rumored to be a target for acquisition by a variety of other companies. In March 2010, Elliott Associates, L.P., an institutional investor with approximately 8.5% stock ownership of Novell, offered to acquire the company for US$5.75 per share in cash, or US$1 billion.[100] The company declined the offer, saying that the proposal was inadequate and that it undervalued the company's franchise and growth prospects.[101]

Novell announced in November 2010 that it had agreed to be acquired by The Attachmate Group for US$2.2 billion, and planned to operate Novell as two units, one being SUSE. As part of the deal, 882 patents owned by Novell were sold to CPTN Holdings LLC, a consortium of companies led by Microsoft and including Apple, EMC, and Oracle.[102][103][104] According to Novell's SEC filing, the patents "relate primarily to enterprise-level computer systems management software, enterprise-level file management and collaboration software in addition to patents relevant to our identity and security management business, although it is possible that certain of such issued patents and patent applications read on a range of different software products".[105][106] The Attachmate Group expressed in advance of the deal closing that there would no change to the relationship between the SUSE business and the openSUSE project.[107] The merger completed in April 2011, with US$6.10 per share in cash being paid to acquire Novell. Novell became a wholly owned subsidiary of The Attachmate Group.

Concurrent with the closing of the acquisition, some of Novell's products and brands were transferred to another of the Attachmate Group business units, NetIQ, and the SUSE Linux brand was spun off as its own business unit. The fourth business unit, Attachmate, was not directly affected by the acquisition.

CPTN Holdings agreement[edit]

Immediately prior to merger being finalized, Novell completed the patent sale to CPTN Holdings for US$450 million.[108] The U.S. Department of Justice announced that, as originally proposed, the deal with CPTN would jeopardize the ability of open source software, such as Linux, to continue to innovate and compete in the development and distribution of server, desktop, and mobile operating systems, middleware, and virtualization products; to address the department's antitrust concerns, CPTN and its owners had altered their original agreement:

  • All of the Novell patents would be acquired subject to the GPLv2 open source license, and the Open Invention Network (OIN) license
  • CPTN does not have the right to limit which of the patents, if any, are available under the OIN license
  • Neither CPTN nor its owners will make any statement or take any action with the purpose of influencing or encouraging either Novell or Attachmate Group to modify which of the patents are available under the OIN license

2011 layoffs[edit]

In April 2011, The Attachmate Group announced layoffs for the Novell workforce, including hundreds of employees from their Provo Utah Valley center,[109] raising questions about the future of some open source projects such as Mono.[110][111]

Micro Focus acquisition[edit]

In September 2014, mainframe software company Micro Focus announced it was buying The Attachmate Group, including Novell, for US$1.2 billion.[112]


Two acquisitions that did not work out


Novell was one of the first computer companies to provide proficiency certification for users of its products. They include:


While Novell was no longer an independent company after 2011, it (along with WordPerfect) was instrumental in making the Utah Valley a focus for software development, and its legacy resides in the area having many small companies whose employees previously worked at Novell.

Products marketed by Novell include:

  • Novell iPrint Appliance a network print server supports mobility on printing, a user can print from any device from anywhere to anywhere in any corner of the world
  • BorderManager provides Internet access controls, secure VPN, and firewall services on NetWare
  • Business Continuity Clustering automates the configuration and management of high-availability, clustered servers
  • Client for Linux gives Linux desktop users access to NetWare and Open Enterprise Server services and applications
  • Client for Windows gives Microsoft Windows users access to NetWare and Open Enterprise Server services and applications
  • Cluster Services for Open Enterprise Server simplifies resource management on a Storage Area Network (SAN) and enables high-availability
  • Data Synchronizer keeps applications and mobile devices constantly in sync, and offers connectors for popular CRM systems
  • Endpoint Lifecycle Management Suite manages applications, devices, and servers over their life-cycle
  • Endpoint Protection Suite Endpoint Protection Suite
  • File Management Suite integrates three Novell products that work together to discover, analyze, provision, relocate and optimize file storage based on business policies
  • File Reporter examines and reports on terabytes of unstructured file data, and forecasts storage growth
  • GroupWise provides secure e-mail, calendaring, contact management, and task management with mobile synchronization
  • Ifolder stores files for secure accessibility online and offline, across systems and on the web
  • NFS Gateway for NetWare 6.5 enables NetWare 6.5 servers to access UNIX and Linux NFS-exported file-systems
  • Open Enterprise Server offers NetWare services like centralized server management and secure file storage, running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
  • Open Workgroup Suite provides a low-cost alternative to Microsoft Professional Desktop Platform; features workgroup services and collaboration tools
  • Open Workgroup Suite for Small Business offers a full-featured desktop-to-server solution running on Linux, designed to support small business users
  • Service Desk streamlines and automates the provision of IT services. An OEM product from LiveTime Software.[119]
  • Storage Manager provides automated management of file storage for users and work groups
  • Total Endpoint Management Suite efficiently balances security and productivity across an entire enterprise
  • Vibe provides secure team collaboration with document management and workflow features that can replace existing intranet systems
  • ZENworks, a software suite supporting the management of computer systems
    • ZENworks Application Virtualization allows the packaging and deployment of virtualized applications with predictive application-streaming that delivers apps based on user behavior
    • ZENworks Asset Management provides reports on hardware and software, integrating licensing, installation, and usage data
    • ZENworks Configuration Management provides automated endpoint-management, software distribution, user support, and accelerated Windows 7 migration
    • ZENworks Endpoint Security Management[120][121] (ZES) - provides identity-based protection for client endpoints like laptops, smart phones, and thumb drives; offers driver-level firewall protection
    • ZENworks Full Disk Encryption protects data on laptops and desktops
    • ZENworks Handheld Management allows securing stolen handhelds, protects user data, enforces password policies, and locks out lost or stolen devices
    • ZENworks Linux Management facilitates the control of Linux desktops and servers, using policy-driven automation to deploy, manage and maintain Linux resources
    • ZENworks Mobile Management secures and manages mobile devices, both corporate-issued and personal (BYOD)
    • ZENworks Patch Management automates patch assessment, monitoring and remediation; monitors patch compliance to detect security vulnerabilities
    • ZENworks Virtual Appliance provides self-contained plug-and-play configuration management, asset management and patch management

See also[edit]

Novell pen.jpg


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]