Novell focuses on identity management

Infrastructure vendor moves away from local area networks in a bid to grow both its local and global market share.

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By  Patrick Phelvin Published  October 28, 2003

|~||~||~|Novell is shifting its focus from local area networks (LANs) to security identity management as it looks to grow its business both globally and within the Middle East. To facilitate these ambitions at a local level, the company has shaken up its Dubai Internet City (DIC) operation and is talking up its Nsure product range.

“In the Middle East we are looking to be incredibly aggressive. The opportunities here for Novell are huge and I firmly believe there is not a single large IT user in the region that would not benefit from some Novell technology,” says John Bell, managing director, Novell Middle East. “During our presence here we have largely been known as the LAN people and we have not done a great job in letting people know about our other applications, that’s about to change,” he adds.

Novell, which has historically performed poorly in the Middle East, is looking to achieve three-figure growth throughout the region for the next two years. Bell believes secure identity management, rather than networking, will be the driving force behind this expansion.
Key to this strategy is the vendor’s Nsure package, which is for the most part a re-branding of older secure management products, including BorderManager, SecureLogin, iChain, eDirectory and Modular Authentication Service. However, by adding DirXML and Nsure Resources, Novell believes it has a fully integrated set of products for identity management.

The software is designed to give IT managers the ability to create a common user identity that is tied to attributes, credentials and the policies that govern what users can and can’t access on a corporate network. As just one profile needs to be built, it is far quicker than existing identity creation methods, which in turn saves time and money. Furthermore, because of the package’s added secure benefits, it allows users to access a system from afar with ease.

Novell has utilised the technology itself to create profiles for company recruits before they begin their jobs, so they can access parts of the company’s systems and learn about the company and its processes before they actually start work.

“Novell is delivering a solution that seamlessly links all of a company’s disparate systems, wherever they may be. It delivers content that is personalised to a user or an identity. It does not matter whether that identity is an employee, a customer, a partner or a supplier,” says Martin Smith, director of operations for Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

“In Europe and the rest of the world we are already some way down the line in achieving this vision, but in the Middle East we are quite open about saying that we have not yet done a marvellous job in communicating the value of these solutions,” he adds.

In addition to shifting its focus to security identity management, Novell has taken great pains to ensure its products garner a wider appeal than in the past. The company has fully embracing Linux and has recently acquired Xinian, a supplier of open source desktop applications. “One of the major cost reducing exercises people are going through is saying they need Linux, since it’s an open and free operating system. Nine months ago the jury was still out [regarding Linux], today we are talking not if, but when,” says Bell.

Novell’s strategic reshuffle has attracted the attention of the analyst community. However, worries about how easy Nsure is to implement, concerns about the strength of the company’s marketing and the image problem left by Novell’s massive loss in the networking market — from 70% to around 17% — have made it hesitate before toasting the company’s comeback. Furthermore, NetWare, the company’s stalwart operating system, is still losing out to competitors.

“Novell is a strong technology company struggling to transform itself into a solutions company yet successfully battling for the attention of executives. Only Novell and IBM have complete solutions for ID management, and Novell has a pretty good suite,” says Gartner Group analyst John Enck.

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