Acquisition, new CEO fan doubts about Novell

Network World |  Networking

"Many of Novell's newer products require consulting expertise," says Ron Diebert, manager of network services for Baltimore County government in Maryland. "The average [Certified Novell Engineer] I have [requires consulting help] when you are talking about using DirXML, iChain or Novell Portal Services."

Messman, while a relative unknown to the financial and industry analyst community, is familiar to those who worked with him at Novell's predecessor, Novell Data Systems. From 1981 to 1983 Messman worked for Safeguard Scientific, the venture capital firm that funded Novell Data Systems.

"He was our hatchet man," recalls Reid Clarke, a Novell founder. "He came out to fire the first president and was sent by the board to find out why Novell Data Systems didn't make its projections the second year. Safeguard wanted to sell the company, and Messman had me looking around to sell it to anyone that would buy."

In his role with Novell Data Systems, Messman hired Ray Noorda as CEO. Noorda and Safeguard Scientific reorganized the company as Novell, Inc. Messman also hired a group of young computer scientists called SuperSet, which included Drew Major, Kyle Powell and Dale Neibaur, to write a program called ShareNet that let a computer share its disk with other computers.

Noorda and Safeguard Scientific refashioned Novell from a failing manufacturer of terminals, printers and PCs into a market leader for system software.

Analysts are concerned about Messman's ability to continue Novell's thrust into the Net Services marketplace.

"I'm not bullish on the acquisition," Shepich says. "It's not as if Cambridge is selling Novell technology. I don't know how they are going to get synergies going. I don't know that Cambridge is marketing effectively either."

Last year, Cambridge Technology posted a net loss of $62.5 million on sales of $586 million. The company, which derived 74% of its revenue from e-commerce products and services, is vendor agnostic.

Messman isn't concerned that Cambridge consultants have little familiarity with NetWare or Novell's products.

"We will help Novell define new e-solutions models," Messman says. "We will also be able to maintain Cambridge's objective and independent point of view to the software choices that solve customer problems in the best possible way."

Novell hopes to grab 30% of its revenue from consulting services this year. In 2000, consulting was only 5%.

Observers are speculating that Messman may reprise his role from the Novell Data Systems days.

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