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Novell's current headquarters in Waltham
Novell's former headquarters in Provo

Novell, Inc. is a global software and services company based in Walthammarker, Massachusettsmarker. The company specializes in enterprise operating systems, such as SUSE Linux Enterprise and Novell NetWare; identity, security, and systems management solutions; and collaboration solutions, such as Novell Groupwise and Novell Pulse.

Novell was instrumental in making the Utah Valleymarker a focus for technology and software development. Novell technology contributed to the emergence of local area networks, which displaced the dominant mainframe computing model and changed computing worldwide. Today, a primary focus of the company is on developing open source software for enterprise clients.


Novell owes its beginnings to the Eyring Research Institute (ERI) in Provo, Utah. Dennis Fairclough, Drew Major, Dale Neibaur and Kyle Powell left their employment with ERI and took with them the experience and technology necessary to start and support the development of Novell. Dennis Fairclough was the member of the original team that started Novell Data Systems. Drew Major, Dale Neibaur and Kyle Powell went on to form SuperSet Software. Dennis Fairclough was the original founder of Novell, when Ray Noorda came to Novell, who was dismissed in a route to build upon a new future for Novell. Drew Major, Dale Neibaur and Kyle Powell continued to supply support for Novell through their SuperSet Software Group.

Dennis Fairclough, Drew Major, Dale Neibaur and Kyle Powell’s work on government contracts for the Intelligent Systems Technology Project at ERI transferred to Novell important insights from the ARPANET and related developing technologies, insights that would become the foundations of Novell.

ERI spawned many high-tech spin-offs, including WordPerfect, Novell, and Dynix in computers and some in the military and communication areas that have all benefited the world. (The Life of Frank Carlyle Harmon, written by Cleo Harmon, wife of the Founder and the Secretary of the President at Eyring Research Institute, published 1999)

The company began in Provomarker, Utahmarker as Novell Data Systems Inc. in 1979, a hardware manufacturer producing CP/M based systems. It was co-founded by George Canova, Darin Field, and Jack Davis. Victor V. Vurpillat brought the deal to Pete Musser, Chairman of the Board, Safeguard Scientifics, Inc. who provided the seed funding. The company initially did not do well, and both Davis and Canova left the firm. The Safeguard board then ordered Musser to shut Novell down. Musser contacted two Safeguard investors and investment bankers, Barry Rubenstein and Fred Dolin, who guaranteed to raise the necessary funds to continue the business as a software company. They, along with Jack Messman, interviewed and hired Raymond Noorda. The required funding was accomplished through a rights offering to Safeguard shareholders, managed by the Cleveland brokerage house Prescott, Ball and Turben and guaranteed by Rubenstein and Dolin.


The name for the company Novell was suggested by George Canova’s wife who mistakenly thought that “Novell” meant “new” in French. (In fact, the feminine singular of “new” in French is “nouvelle” and the word "novel" in English stems from the same roots).


The first Novell product was a proprietary hardware server based on Motorola 6800 CPU supporting 6 MUX ports per board for a maximum of 4 boards per server using a star topology with twisted pair cabling. A network interface card (NIC) was developed for the IBM PC Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus. The server was using the first network operating system (NOS) called ShareNet. Later ShareNet was ported to run on the Intelmarker platform and renamed NetWare. The first commercial release of NetWare was version 1.5.

In January 1983, the company’s name was shortened to Novell Inc., and Raymond Noorda became the head of the firm. Also in 1983, the company introduced its most significant product, the multi-platform network operating system (NOS), Novell NetWare.

Novell based its network protocol on Xerox Network Systems (XNS), and created its own standards from IDP and SPP, which it named Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX) and Sequenced Packet Exchange (SPX). File and print services ran on the NetWare Core Protocol (NCP) over IPX, as did Routing Information Protocol (RIP) and Service Advertising Protocol (SAP).

NetWare uses Novell DOS (formerly DR-DOS) as a boot loader. Novell DOS is similar to MS-DOS and IBM PC-DOS, but no extra license for DOS is required; this came from the acquisition of Digital Research in 1991. Prior to this, Novell acquired Kanwal Rekhi’s company Excelan, a company which manufactured smart Ethernet cards, and also commercialized the internet protocol TCP/IP, solidifying Novell’s presence in these niche areas. It was around this time also that Ed Tittel of HTML For Dummies notoriety became involved with Novell, taking up various positions within the newly acquired Excelan before being made national Marketing Manager for Novell, prior to taking up the post as Novell’s Director of Technical Marketing.

Novell did extremely well throughout the 1980s, acting aggressively to increase the market initially by selling the expensive Ethernet cards at cost; by 1990, Novell had an almost monopolistic position in NOS for any business requiring a network.

With this market leadership, Novell began to acquire and build services on top of its NetWare operating platform. These services extended NetWare’s capabilities with such products as NetWare for SAA, Novell Multi-Protocol Router, GroupWise and BorderManager.

Beyond NetWare

However, Novell was also diversifying, moving away from its smaller users to target large corporations (they later attempted to refocus with NetWare for Small Business), reducing investment in research and was slow to improve the product administration tools (the temporary saving grace being that their products typically needed little “tweaking” – they just ran).

In June 1993, the company bought Unix System Laboratories from AT&T, giving them rights to the Unix operating system, apparently in an attempt to strike at Microsoft. In 1994 Novell bought WordPerfect, as well as the Quattro Pro product from Borland. These acquisitions did not last: Novell in 1995 assigned portions of their Unix business to the Santa Cruz Operation, WordPerfect and Quattro Pro were sold together to Corel in 1996. DR was also sold to Caldera Systems in 1996.

As Novell faced new competition, Noorda was replaced by Robert Frankenberg in 1994, and he was followed by several CEOs who served short terms. One of Novell’s major innovations from this period was Novell Directory Services (NDS), now known as eDirectory. Introduced with NetWare v4.0. eDirectory replaced the old Bindery server and user management technology employed by NetWare v3.x and earlier.

In 1996, the company began a move into internet-enabled products, replacing reliance on the proprietary IPX protocol in favor of a native TCP/IP stack. The move was accelerated when Eric Schmidt became CEO in 1997 and then brought in Christopher Stone as his right hand man. The result was NetWare v5.0, released in October 1998, which leveraged and built upon eDirectory and introduced new functions, such as Novell Cluster Services (NCS, a replacement for SFT-III) and Novell Storage Services (NSS), a replacement for the Traditional/FAT filesystem used by earlier versions of NetWare. While NetWare v5.0 introduced native TCP/IP support into the NOS, IPX was still supported, allowing for smooth transitions between environments and avoiding the “forklift upgrades” frequently required by competing environments. Similarly, the Traditional/FAT filesystem remained a supported filesystem option.

However, by 1999, Novell had lost its dominant market position, and was continually being out-marketed by Microsoft, which gained access to corporate data centers by bypassing technical staff and selling directly to corporate executives. Microsoft worked to make NetWare look second place with Windows 2000 features such as Group Policy. Microsoft’s GUI was also more popular and more modern-seeming than the character-based Novell interfaces. With falling revenues, the company pushed hard at net services and platform interoperability. Products such as eDirectory and GroupWise were made multi-platform.

In October 2000, Novell released a new product, dubbed DirXML, which was designed to synchronize data, often user information, between disparate directory and database systems. This product leveraged the speed and functionality of eDirectory to store information, and would later become the Novell Identity Manager product and form the foundation of a core product set within Novell.

In July 2001, Novell acquired the consulting company Cambridge Technology Partners, founded in Cambridge, MAmarker, by John J. Donovan, to expand offerings into services. Novell felt that the ability to offer solutions (a combination of software and services) was key to satisfying customer demand. This change was strongly resisted within the firm’s software development culture as well as the finance organization which recommended against the merger. The CEO of CTP, Jack Messman, engineered the merger using his position as a board member of Novell since its inception and soon became CEO of Novell as well. He then hired back Chris Stone as Vice Chairman/Office of the CEO to set the course for Novell's strategy into Open Source and Enterprise Linux. With the CTP acquisition, Novell moved its headquarters to Massachusettsmarker.

In July 2002, Novell acquired SilverStream Software, a leader in Web services-oriented application development, but a laggard in the marketplace. The business area called Novell exteNd contains XML and Web Service tools based on J2EE.

Linux for Business

In August 2003, Novell acquired Ximian, a developer of open source Linux applications (Evolution, Red Carpet and Mono). This acquisition signaled Novell’s plans to move its collective product set onto a Linux kernel.

In November 2003, Novell acquired SuSE, a developer of a leading Linux distribution, which led to a major shift of power in Linux distributions. IBM also invested $50 million to show support of the SuSE acquisition. Within the openSUSE project, Novell continues to develop SUSE Linux as base for its business products. SUSE Linux 10.3 is available as Open Source only-Version (OSS Edition), which is freely downloadable and not a limited evaluation product. It is also available as boxed retail product with formal support.

In the summer of 2003, Novell released “Novell eNterprise Linux Services” (NNLS), which ported some of the services traditionally associated with NetWare to SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server (SLES) version 8.

In November 2004, Novell released the Linux-based enterprise desktop Novell Linux Desktop v9. This product was based on Ximian Desktop and SUSE Linux Professional 9.1. This was Novell’s first attempt to get into the enterprise desktop market.

The successor product to NetWare, Open Enterprise Server, was released in March 2005. OES offers all the services previously hosted by NetWare v6.5, and added the choice of delivering those services using either a NetWare v6.5 or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server v9 kernel. The release was aimed to persuade NetWare customers to move to Linux.


From 2003 through 2005 Novell released many products across its portfolio, with the intention of arresting falling market share and to move away from dependencies on other Novell products, but the launches were not as successful as Novell had hoped. In late 2004, Chris Stone left the company after an apparent control issue with then Chairman Jack Messman. In an effort to cut costs, Novell announced a round of layoffs in late 2005. While revenue from its Linux business continued to grow, the growth was not fast enough to contain the fall in NetWare revenue. This meant that while the company’s revenue was not falling rapidly, it was not growing either. Lack of clear direction or effective management meant that Novell took longer than expected to complete its restructuring.

In June 2006, chief executive Jack Messman and chief finance officer Joseph Tibbetts were fired, with Ronald Hovsepian, Novell’s president and chief operating officer, appointed chief executive, and Dana Russell, vice-president of finance and corporate controller, appointed interim CFO.

Recent Developments

In April 2006, Novell acquired e-Security, Inc., a leading provider in the Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) space and developer of the Sentinel Security Event Manager. In May 2006, it sold its consulting subsidiary Celerant Consulting.

On the 14th of October 2008, Novell announced that it would be acquiring Managed Objects, which provides enterprise level monitoring tools for data center service loads across physical or virtual environments. Managed Objects is being integrated into Novell's Systems and Resource Management (SRM) business unit.

Novell has organized into four Business Units to focus on its core products portfolios: Open Platform Solutions (OPS), Workgroup Solutions (WGS), Systems and Resource Management (SRM), and Identity and Security Management (ISM).

The Open Platform Solutions (OPS) Business Unit is based around SUSE Linux Enterprise platform products:

The Workgroup Solutions (WGS) Business Unit is based around providing applications for office productivity products:

The Identity and Security Management (ISM) Business Unit provides products that leverage identity information management:
  • Novell eDirectory
  • Novell Identity Manager (IDM) - manage access across a heterogeneous group of networks, systems, and information.
  • Novell Access Manager – successor of Border Manager and iChain. Provides identity-based access to internal resources from inside or outside a given network, including web applications, SSLVPN applications, and so forth. Also includes federation based on Liberty and SAML.
  • Novell BorderManager – Manages access to external websites from inside the corporate network based on identities and policies.
  • Novell Sentinel – A Security Event Manager that provides event collection, automated correlation, analysis, and reporting and is now fully integrated with Identity Manager and other IDM solutions to provide visibility into user activities.

The Systems and Resource Management (SRM) Business Unit based around:
  • ZENworks toolset, which provides application and patch management for servers, desktops, and handheld devices and asset management for Windows and Linux.
  • PlateSpinmarker, which provides virtualization and workload management tools, allowing data center operators to plan and implement virtualization projects, and provide ongoing workload protection using both software and the Forge disaster recovery appliance
  • Managed Objects - Enterprise level monitoring tools for data center service loads across physical or virtual environments

Novell are founding members of the Open Invention Network, a group of companies that acquires patents, with the aim to protect free and open source software against the threat of patent infringement cases.

Your Linux is Ready

In August 2006 Novell released the SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 (SLE 10) series of products. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server was the first enterprise class Linux server to offer virtualization based on the Xen hypervisor. SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (popularly known as SLED) featured a new user-friendly GUI and XGL-based 3D display capabilities. The release of SLE 10 was marketed with the phrase 'Your Linux is Ready', meant to convey that Novell’s Linux offerings were ready for the enterprise. In late September 2006 Novell announced a real time version of SLES called [SUSE Linux Enterprise Real Time] (SLERT) based on technology from Concurrent Computer Corporation.

The future growth of Novell is largely dependent on how successful the SLE 10 products are in the market place.

Agreement with Microsoft

On 2 November 2006, Novell and Microsoft announced a joint patent agreement to cover their respective products. They also promised to work more closely together, in order to improve their software’s ability to work with other software, setting up a joint research facility to do this. Leaders from both companies purportedly hope this will lead to better compatibility between Microsoft Office and and better virtualization techniques.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said of the deal, “This set of agreements will really help bridge the divide between open-source and proprietary source software.”

The deal involves upfront payment of $348 million from Microsoft to Novell for patent cooperation and SLES subscription. Novell will pay around $40 million to Microsoft over 5 years.

One of the first results of this partnership was that Novell adapted the OpenXML/ODF Translator for use in

Initial reaction from members of the FOSS community over the patent protection was mostly critical, with expressions of concern that Novell had “sold out” and of doubt that the GPL would allow distribution of code, including the Linux kernel, under this exclusive agreement.

In a letter to the FOSS development community on November 9, Bradley M. Kuhn, CTO of the Software Freedom Law Center described the agreement as “worse than useless.” In a separate development the chairman of the SFLC, Eben Moglen, reported that Novell had offered cooperation with the SFLC to permit a confidential audit to determine the compliance of the agreement with the GPL (version 2). Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, said in November that changes coming with the version 3 of the GPL will preclude such deals. When the final revision of the third version of the GPL license was decided, the deal between Microsoft and Novell was grandfather in. A new clause will let companies like Novell distribute GPLv3 software even if they have made such patent partnerships in the past, as long as the partnership deal was made before March 28, 2007 (GPLv3 Section 11 paragraph 7 ).

On November 12, the Samba team expressed strong disapproval of Novell’s announcements on November 2 and asked Novell to reconsider. The Samba team includes an employee of Novell, Jeremy Allison, who confirmed in a comment on Slashdot that the statement was agreed on by all members of the team, and later quit his job at Novell in protest.

In early February 2007, Reuters reported that the Free Software Foundation had announced that it was reviewing Novell’s right to sell Linux versions, and even may ban Novell from selling Linux, because of an agreement. However Eben Moglen later said that he was quoted out of context. He was explaining that GPL version 3 will be designed to block similar deals in the future. Currently, Novell is not violating the GPL version 2 or 3, under which most of the software in a Linux distribution is licensed. Even though moving to GPLv3 doesn't affect this Microsoft-Novell partnership, all FSF software will transition to this new license, but it is unclear how many other projects (such as the Linux kernel) will adopt it.

Support Ecosystem

Novell has a wide array of web-based and phone-based support options for its customers. The Novell support website was named one of the “Ten Best Web Support Sites” in [2003] by the Association of Support Professionals (ASP). In [2003], Novell received an Outstanding Website Award in the WebAward Competition for their Cool Solutions website with a searchable database of advice, tools and problem fixes submitted by users from all over the world.

Novell also hosts support forums covering all of their products including SUSE Linux Enterprise, GroupWise, ZENworks and NetWare. Novell offers users both HTTP and NNTP access to the support forums and a search option. Whilst Novell encourages the use of these forums, it does not officially monitor these forums. The forums are maintained by SysOps that have a demonstrated competency with the various products and volunteer their time to try and help the wider community.

Novell maintains a number of wikis with up-to-date information on a number of its products. For instance, as new NetWare service packs are released the NetWare wiki is updated with tips and known issues with the service packs. In some cases, the service packs themselves will have their own wiki with information added from feedback provided in the support forums.



Novell is one of the first computer companies to provide certification to its products. They include:



In November 2006, the Microsoft and Novell software corporations announced a controversial partnership involving, among other things, patent protection (which may fall under the category of benefits, rather than criticism) for some customers of Novell under certain conditions.See above: Novell's patent agreement with Microsoft

See also


  1. Fisher, Lawrence M. (April 6, 1994). Longtime Hewlett Executive Named Novell Chief. New York Times
  3. [1] see quote from Eben Moglen, the Foundation’s general counsel : “The community of people wants to do anything they can to interfere with this deal and all deals like it. They have every reason to be deeply concerned that this is the beginning of a significant patent aggression by Microsoft”.
  4. Linux-Watch

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