Looking up at the channel

In his keynote speech at Novell Inc.’s Brainshare 2008 conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, CEO Ron Hovespian set the tempo for what looks to be a company incredibly focused on partner relationships.

“We’re looking at improving customer relationships,” he told the audience of close to 5,000 people. “Our partners play a huge role in the strategy of this company.”

SAP’s senior vice-president of global channel sales and strategic alliances, Pat Hume was on hand for the festivities to announce a significant partnership with the Waltham, Mass.-based company – a deal which features the companies working together to enable SAP’s enterprise applications to work with Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise and virtualization and identity management technologies.

But in addition to this move, Novell executives confirmed to CDN that it has worked out a partnership with HP and will soon preload its SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) on the giant’s laptops and desktops.

These partnerships – along with signing of seven new vendors to its identity and security management partner ecosystem – represent some very significant moves for Novell’s partner and customer relationship strategies.

CDN special correspondent Rafael Ruffolo sat down with Novell CEO Ron Hovespian last month to discuss the company’s partner strategies.

CDN: What would you say has been the most significant development that’s come out of the show thus far?

Ron Hovespian: I would say far and away the SAP announcement. Our ecosystem and the things we’re doing to build out our partners and the ecosystem is the key message. What’s unique with what we did with SAP is that we’ve aligned their technology on top of our Linux footprint, exclusively around this All-in-One market for the small and medium enterprises, which I think is a critical market for us. They want to grow to 100,000 customers and what we’ve done by packaging this is allowed the customer to get a rapid deployment time to get the value out of their application asset. What we’ve been able to do is take out about 45 per cent of the implementation cost as well, because we’ve bundled this stuff together in more of a software appliance and that’s very innovative and leading edge. This is a big market changer.

CDN: With HP now coming into the fold, what affect will that have on increasing the traction for Linux Desktop in the enterprise?

R.H.: The most important thing for the Linux Desktop to gain traction is that it has the right application usages within the enterprise. We’ve very much focused this as an enterprise desktop, not a consumer desktop. And we’ve focused in on certain workloads, segmented workloads that customers do in the desktop into five categories and we’ve picked three of them to address with our desktop implementations. So, that’s what’s going to be critical, that we apply the desktop technology to where we designed it to be. And it’s not aimed at the entire enterprise; it’s only for certain workloads. And we think we can capture a share of the market that way. Now, having HP in the market just further validates that belief to the market. And they will also understand how to segment workloads across heterogeneous desktop environments.

CDN: There are not a lot of Linux VARs, not to mention IT professionals in general, who understand Linux in Canada. And this might even be true in the U.S. How much of a challenge is this for the new HP offering?

R.H.: Like all new technologies, building that ecosystem is so important. Again, part of where we see the opportunity is by taking an SAP, for example. In the SME market we’ve added 152 new ecosystem partners in the first four and a half months of the new fiscal year. So, we’re really starting to build that up. And that’s something that takes time to build up. I’m very comfortable with the progress we’ve made with that.

CDN: What other implications will some of the announcements at the conference have on the channel?

R.H.: I would invite the partners in the market to do two things: One, to understand the Novell value proposition to the customer, and two, to understand the Novell value proposition for them as a partner. We’ve changed a lot of the pieces here to make a compelling story for the partner and we’ve introduced big ecosystem relationships that are going to influence the customer, like SAP, HP and Microsoft. Those are very powerful relationships for the partner to be able to walk in and have a conversation on a heterogeneous workload for the customers. For example, putting in SAP to help them accelerate their business values. So I would invite them to do those two things with us.

CDN: In the next few years, where do you see the Microsoft-Novell technical partnership going?

R.H.: I’m very hopeful that it will continue to blossom and flourish the way it has around some of the technical things we can do and share. There’s a lot of work we could do to help interoperability at the services management layer. There’s more we can do there to help our customers field that integration. There’s more that we can do around the identity part of the market for the customers as well. And we’re also doing a lot on the interoperability at the Linux layer. All of those pieces and working with Microsoft from a technical aspect will have some very interesting breakthroughs for the customer.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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