Novell Prepares to Engage Hosting Partners

Novell Prepares to Engage Hosting Partners

More than 2,500 customers and partners are attending this week's Novell BrainShare conference, but most of the attending partners are VARs rather than MSPs. Still, anecdotal evidence -- involving Novell, Groundwork Open Source, Verizion Business and Zmanda-- suggests Novell's partner ecosystem may increasingly involve hosting providers and managed services providers over the next few months. Plus, a new product called Novell Pulse will have key implications for hosting partners, asserts Novell Senior VP Colleen O'Keefe (pictured). Here's why.

Let's start with the email market. No doubt, you know Novell GroupWise's market share trails Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes. But Novell is developing a new way to potentially add value to each of those three email systems. The solution, called Novell Pulse, is a collaboration and social media system for corporate enterprises. And yes, Pulse integrates with the major email platforms.

I viewed a Pulse beta at BrainShare, and it closely resembles FaceBook -- though it's designed with Novell's identity management and security services in mind for CIOs and corporate customers. Watch for Pulse to launch in mid-2010, says O'Keefe, senior VP and GM of Novell Collaboration Solutions and Global Services.

So where do service providers and hosting companies fit in? Pulse is designed to be a hosted system. And Novell has no plans to host Pulse on its own. The software company is quietly speaking with potential hosting partners now.

Pulse will likely leverage a freemium strategy -- meaning that small workgroups can use Pulse for free, but additional storage and other services will involve a monthly fee. Longer term, Novell will allow enterprises to host Pulse in their own private clouds, O'Keefe added.

Software Appliances for MSPs

Meanwhile, Novell's SUSE Studio appliance strategy is starting to catch on with service providers and some key software partners. The software appliance strategy allows ISVs to provide customers (and service providers) with turn-key systems that include Linux, middleware and special purpose applications.

True believers include Groundwork Open Source, which competes with CA, BMC, HP OpenView and IBM Tivoli in the systems management market. Since launching a SUSE Linux-based software appliance in December 2009, more than 100 customers have adopted the solution, says Groundwork CEO Peter Jackson. And a good portion of those customers, Jackson added, are managed services providers.

Meanwhile, Zmanda -- an open source backup software provider -- has also developed a SUSE Linux-based software appliance. Zmanda CEO Chander Kant tells me the company recently hired two channel managers. And if you listen carefully enough, it sounds to me like Zmanda is preparing partner moves involving MSPs and hosting providers.

Big Service Providers

Finally, big service providers are taking a close look at Novell's Identity and Security Management offerings. CEO Ronald W. Hovsepian pointed to Verizon Business as a key partner in those efforts going forward.

I'll be checking in with Verizon Business for their perspective over the next day here at BrainShare.

First Steps

No doubt, most of Novell's current channel strategy involves integrators and consulting firms that specialize in Linux, identity management and data center consolidation. But emerging developer tools (such as SUSE Studio) and emerging platforms (such as Pulse) seem to be setting the stage for Novell and its software partners to reach out to hosting providers and MSPs.

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