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Novell outlines e-commerce plans

The company builds momentum under new leadership, but can it tailor its software to the needs of Net commerce?

    SALT LAKE CITY, Utah--Novell has built some momentum under new leadership, but can the company tailor its software to the needs of Net commerce?

    Company executives today disclosed plans to deliver a set of functions based on new and existing products that will allow e-commerce Web sites to utilize Novell's strengths in providing directory services software, essentially an intelligent database for user and system information.

    An effort called iChain will wrap several elements of Novell's software--including management and security tools and server-based caching technology--into a system that can handle the user interaction and transaction-oriented needs of a commerce site, executives said. The largely Java-based iChain system is expected to debut this summer, with various elements coming from third parties such as Netegrity.

    "I want to be the company that facilitates the transaction and the business-to-business flow," said Chris Stone, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development for Novell, at the company's annual user conference here.

    Novell intends to build components that will be utilized as part of the iChain system, but will lean on other companies to round out the offering, Stone said. "It's very much a partnership ecosystem builder."

    Novell is relying on its directory services software, or NDS, to play a key role in its commerce effort due to the technology's ability to store a variety of information about individuals, systems, and software. The NDS thrust is a central part of chief Eric Schmidt's strategy to re-position Novell in the software market--a goal since his arrival two years ago.

    Stone said the company sees NDS as the administrator of the so-called keys to providing secure commerce over the Net.

    The company also plans to make it easier for users to publish documents on the Web using a revamped set of GroupWise collaborative tools. New user security technology unveiled here called "digitalme" will also likely play a role, executives said.

    In the past two years, Novell has spent most of its time getting its own house in order and has, until now, spent little time expounding on the opportunities provided by the boom in electronic commerce. Another perceived laggard, Microsoft, rolled out updated plans to tackle the market earlier this month.

    Novell intends to expand its own online presence. Given the company's indirect sales channel, Novell intends to create more links to third-party integrators and resellers for users wanting to purchase software on the Net.