Novell Inc. is a global software corporation based in the United States specializing in enterprise operating systems such as SUSE Linux Enterprise and Novell NetWare; identity, security and systems management solutions; and collaboration solutions. Together with WordPerfect, Novell was instrumental in making the Utah Valley a focus for high-technology software development. Today this area has many small companies whose employees have previously worked at Novell.
Novell owes its beginnings to the Eyring Research Institute (ERI) in Provo, Utah. Dennis Fairclough, Drew Major, Dale Neibaur and Kyle Powell left their employment with ERI and took with them the experience and technology necessary to start and support the development of Novell. Dennis Fairclough was the member of the original team that started Novell Data Systems. Drew Major, Dale Neibaur and Kyle Powell went on to form SuperSet Software. Dennis Fairclough was the original founder of Novell, when Ray Noorda came to Novell, who was dismissed in a route to build upon a new future for Novell. Drew Major, Dale Neibaur and Kyle Powell continued to supply support for Novell through their SuperSet Software Group.
Dennis Fairclough, Drew Major, Dale Neibaur and Kyle Powell’s work on government contracts for the Intelligent Systems Technology Project at ERI transferred to Novell important insights from the ARPANET and related developing technologies, insights that would become the foundations of Novell.
ERI spawned many high-tech spin-offs, including WordPerfect, Novell, and Dynix in computers and some in the military and communication areas that have all benefited the world. (The Life of Frank Carlyle Harmon, written by Cleo Harmon, wife of the Founder and the Secretary of the President at Eyring Research Institute, published 1999)
The company began in Provo, Utah as Novell Data Systems Inc. in 1979, a hardware manufacturer producing CP/M based systems. It was co-founded by George Canova, Darin Field, and Jack Davis. Victor V. Vurpillat brought the deal to Pete Musser, Chairman of the Board, Safeguard Scientifics, Inc. who provided the seed funding. The company initially did not do well, and both Davis and Canova left the firm. 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. They, along with Jack Messman, interviewed and hired Raymond Noorda. The required funding was accomplished through a rights offering to Safeguard shareholders, managed by the Cleveland brokerage house Prescott, Ball and Turben and guaranteed by Rubenstein and Dolin.
In January 1983, the company’s name was shortened to Novell Inc., and Raymond Noorda became the head of the firm. Also in 1983, the company introduced its most significant product, the multi-platform network operating system (NOS), Novell NetWare.
Novell based its network protocol on Xerox network services (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).
NetWare uses Novell DOS (formerly DR-DOS) as a boot loader. Novell DOS is similar to MS-DOS and IBM PC-DOS, but no extra license for DOS is required; this came from the acquisition of Digital Research in 1991. Prior to this, Novell acquired Kanwal Rekhi’s company Excelan, a company which manufactured smart ethernet cards, and also commercialized the internet protocol TCP/IP, solidifying Novell’s presence in these niche areas. It was around this time also that Ed Tittel of HTML For Dummies notoriety became involved with Novell, taking up various positions within the newly acquired Excelan before being made national Marketing Manager for Novell, prior to taking up the post as Novell’s Director of Technical Marketing.
Novell did extremely well throughout the 1980s, acting aggressively to increase the market initially by selling the expensive Ethernet cards at cost; by 1990, Novell had an almost monopolistic position in NOS for any business requiring a network.
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.
In June 1993, the company bought Unix System Laboratories from AT&T, giving them rights to the Unix operating system, apparently in an attempt to strike at Microsoft. In 1994 Novell bought WordPerfect, as well as the Quattro Pro product from Borland. These acquisitions did not last: Novell assigned portions of their Unix business to the Santa Cruz Operation in 1995, WordPerfect and Quattro Pro were sold together to Corel in 1996. DR was also sold to Caldera Systems in 1996.
As Novell faced new competition, Noorda was pushed out in 1994, and he was followed by several CEOs who served short terms. One of Novell’s major innovations from this period was Novell Directory Services (NDS), now known as eDirectory. Introduced with NetWare v4.0. eDirectory replaced the old Bindery server and user management technology employed by NetWare v3.x and earlier.
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 1997 and then brought in Christopher Stone as his right hand man. The result was NetWare v5.0, released in October 1998, which 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/FAT filesystem used by earlier versions of NetWare. While NetWare v5.0 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/FAT filesystem remained a supported filesystem option.
However, by 1999, Novell had lost its dominant market position, and was continually being out-marketed by Microsoft, which gained access to corporate data centers by bypassing technical staff and selling directly to corporate executives. Microsoft worked to make NetWare look second place with Windows 2000 features such as Group Policy. Microsoft’s GUI was also more popular and more modern-seeming than the character-based Novell interfaces. With falling revenues, the company pushed hard at 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, often 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 product and form the foundation of a core product set within Novell.
In July 2001, Novell acquired the consulting company Cambridge Technology Partners, 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. This change was strongly resisted within the firm’s software development culture as well as the finance organization which recommended against the merger. The CEO of CTP, Jack Messman, engineered the merger using his position as a board member of Novell since its inception and soon became CEO of Novell as well. He then hired back Chris Stone as Vice Chairman/Office of the CEO to set the course for Novell's strategy into Open Source and Enterprise Linux. With the CTP acquisition, Novell moved its headquarters to Massachusetts.
In July 2002, Novell acquired SilverStream Software, a leader in Web services-oriented application development, but a laggard in the marketplace. The business area called Novell exteNd contains XML and Web Service tools based on J2EE.
In November 2003, Novell acquired SuSE, a developer of a leading Linux distribution, which led to a major shift of power in Linux distributions. IBM also began to distribute Linux, and invested $50 million to show support of the SuSE acquisition. Within the openSUSE project, Novell continues to develop SUSE Linux as base for its business products. SUSE Linux 10.3 is available as Open Source only-Version (OSS Edition), which is freely downloadable and not a limited evaluation product. It is also available as boxed retail product with formal support.
In the summer of 2003, Novell released “Novell Enterprise Linux Services” (NELS), 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 v9. This product was 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 v6.5, and added the choice of delivering those services using either a NetWare v6.5 or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server v9 kernel. The release was aimed to persuade NetWare customers to move to Linux.
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.
The Data Center portfolio is based around SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), with accompanying virtualization, clustering, and security technologies.
The Desktop portfolio is similarly based around SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED), along with related offerings for thin client devices and point of service (POS) devices.
The Security and Identity Management portfolio provides a suite of products that leverage identity information stored and managed with Novell Identity Manager to manage access to networks, systems, and information. Products include:
The Resource Management portfolio is primarily based around the ZENworks toolset, which provides application and patch management for servers, desktops, and handheld devices and asset management for Windows and Linux.
Novell are founding members of the Open Invention Network, a group of companies that acquires patents, with the aim to protect free and open source software against the threat of patent infringement cases.
The future growth of Novell is largely dependent on how successful the SLE 10 products are in the market place.
On 2006-11-02, Novell and Microsoft announced a joint patent agreement to cover their respective products. They also promised to work more closely together, in order to improve their software’s ability to work with other software, setting up a joint research facility to do this. Leaders from both companies purportedly hope this will lead to better compatibility between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org 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.”
The deal involves upfront payment of $348 million from Microsoft to Novell for patent cooperation and SLES subscription. Novell will pay around $40 million to Microsoft over 5 years.
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 of doubt that the GPL would allow distribution of code, including the Linux kernel, under this exclusive agreement.
In a letter to the FOSS development community on November 9, Bradley M. Kuhn, CTO of the Software Freedom Law Center described the agreement as “worse than useless.” 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). Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, said in November that changes coming with the version 3 of the GPL will preclude such deals. When the final revision of the third version of the GPL license was decided, the deal between Microsoft and Novell was grandfathered in. A new clause will let companies like Novell distribute GPLv3 software even if they have made such patent partnerships in the past, as long as the partnership deal was made before March 28, 2007.
On November 12, the Samba team expressed strong disapproval of Novell’s announcements on November 2 and asked Novell to reconsider. The Samba team includes 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, and later quit his job at Novell in protest.
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 even may ban Novell from selling Linux, because of an agreement. However Eben Moglen later said that he was quoted out of context. He was explaining that GPL version 3 will be designed to block similar deals in the future. Currently, Novell is not violating the GPL version 2, under which most of the software in a Linux distribution is licensed. Almost all FSF software will transition to the new license, but it is unclear how many other projects (such as the Linux kernel) will adopt it.
On May 14, 2007, Microsoft licensing chief Horacio Gutierrez said on Fortune that Linux and associated free software violated 235 patents owned by Microsoft. Some thought that Microsoft wanted to make other open-source software vendors follow Novell’s lead. However, this move prompted a comment on ZDNet, by Mary Jo Foley, that this "ended any illusion that Microsoft planned to try to build bridges with the open-source community.
On October 2007, IP Innovation LLC, a company specialized in patent enforcement, filed a suit for patent infringement against Red Hat and Novell. However, IP Innovation LLC is a subsidiary of a company that was a accused of being a patent troll, there have also been accusations of a strong connection between this company and Microsoft.
Novell has a wide array of web-based and phone-based support options for its customers. The Novell support website was named one of the “Ten Best Web Support Sites” in  by the Association of Support Professionals (ASP). In , Novell received an Outstanding Website Award in the WebAward Competition for their Cool Solutions website with a searchable database of advice, tools and problem fixes submitted by users from all over the world.
Novell also hosts support forums covering all of their products including SUSE Linux Enterprise, GroupWise, ZENworks and NetWare. Novell offers users both  and NNTP access to the support forums and a search option. Whilst Novell encourages the use of these forums, it does not officially monitor these forums. The forums are maintained by SysOps that have a demonstrated competency with the various products and volunteer their time to try and help the wider community.
Novell maintains a number of wikis with up-to-date information on a number of its products. For instance, as new NetWare service packs are released the NetWare wiki is updated with tips and known issues with the service packs. In some cases, the service packs themselves will have their own wiki with information added from feedback provided in the support forums.