Enterprise software maker Novell, no longer in its heyday but still toddling along as a $1 billion company, says it is making a strategic bet by staying out of the front lines of cloud computing battles and is pitching its technology to cloud service providers as "plumbing." The first product, an identity and access management tool for hosted applications and hosted storage, will be available in the fall.
Justin Steinman, vice president of solution and product marketing at Novell, talked with SearchCloudComputing.com about the company's cloud strategy:
Where is Novell on cloud computing today?
Justin Steinman: Novell's perspective on the cloud is we envision ourselves as an arms vendor to the cloud. We are not going to be off creating a Novell cloud; we don't believe we hold that place in the market. Rather, we see people who are: Google, Amazon, Rackspace. They're going to need infrastructure tools to run their clouds, which is basically the next generation of what a data center is.
Tell us about the cloud security program.
JS: What we're coming up with is something called "annexation technology." We're going to enable the enterprise to annex a piece of the cloud and treat it as part of the data center during the time they're doing their processing in the cloud and then release it when they're done. We'll be selling to the cloud provider as a service they can offer to the enterprise. It's completely technology-agnostic.
How do you get around the issue of multi-homed systems or multi-tenancy in storage?
JS: That is some of the secret sauce. We built this with more than 60 patents or patent applications that are pending right now, so we've got some unique intellectual property that has been developed specifically for the cloud. We can take a picture or a snapshot of your identity store and then impose that on the cloud while you're computing there. So the cloud provider could have multiple snapshots of their different customers' identity stores used for that piece of computing.
Cloud seems inevitable, but it's still very early days in terms of adoption, right?
JS: We're not going "student body left" and betting the entire business on cloud. We are trying to plant our flag in some of the critical areas around cloud computing -- security, deployment, management, connecting -- but also continue to run our business today, and hopefully they meet in the middle so that when customers get to the cloud, they find the Novell technology they know and love is already there.
And it's a not a lot of effort for Novell -- rather than turn the whole ship, you can drop a line over the side and see what gets nibbles?
JS: Exactly. Because we made a strategic decision as a business on selling to the cloud providers, that's a small target market, so we can have traditional partners focus on selling to the end customers today, and we can make a small investment in selling to cloud providers and building that relationship because it's a small universe of people.
Are you retooling Novell products for use across different cloud platforms?
JS: We have an announcement coming up next week around the SUSE Appliance Program. We did an announcement last week around workload management and our PlateSpin product line. PlateSpin's claim to fame is that it helps you manage workloads across physical, virtual and cloud computing environments. What we are offering with the Appliance Program is the ability for an ISV [independent software vendor] to customize [Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise] and get their applications into the cloud.
Novell has an ability to help you move those workloads around in the cloud in a secure and compliant framework. We've got a way to move them between physical virtual and cloud environments based on business rules, so we start to see all the pieces tie together into an infrastructure.
Not to be blunt, but a lot of other firms have management and automation suites they're offering as cloud products.
JS: We see this as Novell transitioning to a very indirect form of business, where our operating system goes to market to the ISVs, our management tools go to market through solution providers or cloud vendors, our security offering goes to market through cloud providers. You're starting to see an evolution in Novell as an infrastructure/plumbing vendor.