Steve Brown, Novell’s managing director for the UK, Middle East and South Africa, highlights the directory as key to ensuring businesses team up with the right partners.
He insists Novell’s one Net strategy, under which all types of networks work together in e-business, is still very much at the cusp of that. “The Internet. Nobody is trying to sell the benefits of the Internet. People are trying to find a particular niche out of what’s up for grabs.
“For some time, people have been trying to master the complexities of it — it really is a balancing act between the benefits and the complexities.”
As Novell tries to tap into the Internet opportunity, Brown reveals: “We’re going back to the organisations who have used, are running and have developed Novell-based systems inside the firewall.”
But he admits there can be a conflict within an organisation about the firewall. “The IT manager sees the firewall as something to keep all the bad guys out, but the marketing director sees all the users outside the firewall as customers and wants to be able to communicate with them.
It is a dilemma as to how to do that.
“If a company aligns the same security, profiling, tools and skills it’s using internally and delivers them externally to customers, the organisation moves from 500 users to 8m customer connections.”
Brown adds the bonus is that it’s the same people running the internal as the external, so there is no extra cost in terms of resources. To back up his claims, he points to its “proof points around that concept” — its projects with the Ministry of Defence and Bracknell Forest District Council.
But he warns Novell is taking its time. “It is very clear where we are going. The vision is clear, but we can only move at the pace of the market. It is difficult to keep ahead of the market, but there is a great deal of market confidence. People are now recognising Novell for more than just NetWare, although that’s still a key part of our strategy.”
But the real challenge with the Internet world is that it is not a single platform, he insists. “Most of our customers deal with more than one platform, so it is important for us to ensure our directory is available on different platforms, such as Linux and Solaris.
“When we port our services to Linux and Solaris, new partners will be required because it will involve a whole new range of skills — partners are all the more key in this space.”
A connected vision
Novell is also looking to cash in on Tony Blair’s vision to have connectivity with every citizen in the UK by 2005.
Which raises the question, how do you do that? Brown claims the government knows it will not happen overnight, but the Bracknell Forest pilot is the type of connection we will be seeing and it is all based on the directory.
Brown admits that despite all the fighting talk, Novell’s brand is still not highly visible in the market. “I often talk to company directors who say Novell is a new name to them. But every morning they log into Novell and it takes care of all the connectivity and profiling issues within the company. While the public perception may be of limited visibility, Novell is doing some very key things within organisations.”
He adds Novell is identifying the need for the directory to link with multi-platforms.
Brown predicts mobility as another key driver. “I think this drive will increase to the point where the services currently available on the network in the office will be available everywhere.”
But Brown warns there are still a lot of internal problems that need resolving. “The cost of managing PC desktops has not gone away. How do we deliver application services to the desktop and keep up to date with software revisions while delivering across multi-platforms?”
The answer is an opportunity for partners to go into companies and install the directory and add value by offering network management for the remote workers.
Although the ASP market may hold the key, Brown says it is not there yet. “The problem with ASP is who wants to have control of the software. Organisations going to ASP are those who traditionally outsourced.”
He argues that ASP is competing with that model because it really is just a point service. But the real advantages will come when the ASP takes information from that application and looks at user profiles and uses it to sell other services and products.
“This is where the directory comes in and manages the process by linking all of the systems. At the moment, each service is run on a separate directory. This will be a real opportunity for us when the market grows.”
While highlighting the fact some were using the e-channel to lock suppliers and customers into a single source, Brown dismisses it as a viable option in the long run. “All you do is add overheads by forcing users to buy via old methods, rather than the cheaper option of the Web.”
Instead, he argues, the way forward will involve systems such as Novell’s MoD exchange, which links all the MoD’s suppliers into an exchange.
“The enabling technology in that model is the directory and I think this will be key in business, where it can match the profile of the supplier with that of the customer — taking the chance out of the customer’s decision.”
Brown believes it’s a particular opportunity for SMEs, which may not have huge visibility in the market, but by making their profile available on an exchange can compete with their bigger rivals.
“The directory is important to the small guys now — an area where Novell has not had much success — and we will be taking on partners to tackle the SME arena.”
To explain the concept, Brown points to its Bracknell Forest programme, which is designed to provide 110,000 citizens, all of whom have an electronic profile which is managed by NDS, with secure access to council applications such as council tax and planning.
“The idea is to extend this to all councils across the UK, linking them so that details can be transferred if you move area or work in one borough and live in another. It is also planned to go further into central government to give the public access to government services.”
He believes such information could be key for businesses because they can see where the skills are and monitor things such as business rates and planning applications from outside the area, even out of office hours.
There is also an increasing desire to guarantee certain levels of service on the network without the need for someone to manage the network at each branch. “This has huge implications for business in terms of keeping network management costs down because the maintenance is centralised.”
The only unanswered question is whether Novell can capture the opportunity and establish the brand as the key to e-business success.