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Novell's PlateSpin acquisition points to its future

The future of Novell is in infrastructure and geeky system management. It can excel there.

Novell has been on a buying binge lately, today announcing its acquisition of PlateSpin, and previously announcing its acquisition of SiteScape. SiteScape - a company whose product Novell helped to completely rewrite in Java before acquiring it, is nothing to write home about.

PlateSpin, though relatively unknown, might be more interesting.

PlateSpin for the management of heterogeneous workloads that encapsulate data, applications and operating systems residing on a physical or virtual host.

These solutions improve the speed and quality of server consolidation, data center relocation and disaster recovery. Novell and PlateSpin will for mixed infrastructure environments offering products for complete workload lifecycle management and optimization for Linux, UNIX and Windows operating systems in the physical and virtual data center.

Novell has long done well in "back-office" server management. This acquisition should help to further its expertise by making virtualization (across physical and virtual assets) easier, as Novell's chief marketing officer John Dragoon writes.

Despite my frequent criticism of Novell, I think it actually has a good chance in this category of software. Novell employs exceptional developers. What it often lacks is operational excellence and marketing prowess. At the developer marketing level - read: Miguel - it does very well, as Miguel is able to deflect criticism for even unpopular or potentially controversial moves like Moonlight.

As for Novell's marketing at the corporate level...not so great. (And no, John, I'm not talking about you.) When your lead on Linux and open-source marketing blankets the market with FUD about competitors and open source, you've got a problem.

But engineering? Novell has that in spades.

All of which makes its efforts in the data center interesting and plausible. Novell is no longer a Groupwise and workgroup collaboration company, even if it wants to play in all camps. It has been moving all Groupwise development to India for some time while it focuses its engineering resources on the things that make it real money: Linux and Identity Management. PlateSpin continues this.

It's time for Novell to recognize what it is...and isn't. It's not a credible vendor in the email and collaboration space. It is credible - or could be - in the infrastructure and system management market.

P.S. Word on the street is that Novell is currently foraging for an open-source IT management company. Given Hyperic's moves with Red Hat, my money is on Novell to acquire Zenoss.