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Novell's PlateSpin play

PlateSpin could provide a significant boost to Novell if it can extend its partnership with Microsoft, cozy up to VMware, and execute at the field level.

At this week's VMworld Europe in Cannes, France, Novell made an announcement that was more startling to the server virtualization bourgeoisie than a tepid Merlot.

Novell, the company most often associated with network operating systems and red boxes, on Monday announced its plan to acquire PlateSpin, a server virtualization orchestration start-up, for $205 million in cash.

Why would Novell make this acquisition?

1. Server virtualization was passing the company by. In spite of all of the intellectual capital Novell applied to the open-source Xen server virtualization project, the company gained little business value in return. PlateSpin enables Novell to join the virtualization party by entering through the management and operations door.

2. Management has become a server virtualization Achilles' heel. Yes, everyone loves server virtualization, but managing multiple dynamic workloads across heterogeneous platforms is a bear. ESG has seen instances where management headaches have actually derailed server virtualization deployments at large enterprises. Novell just bought into a market with high user demand and limited supply.

3. PlateSpin complements existing Novell strengths. Novell already has very strong systems management tools in its ZenWorks suite. Now PlateSpin extends these capabilities to server virtualization and the dynamic data center. Novell can pull PlateSpin into its ZenWorks base, while PlateSpin may help Novell sell more ZenWorks.

Kudos to Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian and Co. on this deal. PlateSpin really could provide a significant boost to Novell if it can extend its partnership with Microsoft, cozy up to VMware, and execute at the field level. A tall order for sure, but PlateSpin gives Novell revenue and market expansion opportunities that it did not have a week ago.