CRN Interview: Chris Stone, Novell

CRN: In the last year, how has the "new" Novell management team approached corporate customers and what has been the reception?

Stone: We're approaching them, which is something that wasn't done. It's been an uphill battle for Novell to get access to account executives, and we got sick and tired of hearing, 'We had lunch with Bill [Gates] or Steve [Ballmer].' You need to work relationships with CIOs, and getting in front of that audience is key. They know that Novell means good technology, but they don't know all the products.

CRN: What is Novell's new crown jewel?

Stone: Nsure. It's growing 38 percent, and we've had some huge customer wins: Star Alliance, the city of New York, Lufthansa, the city of Los Angeles, Daimler Chrysler, Swedish Tax Authority ...

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CRN: Why is it taking off so much in the public sector?

Stone: Because it's a huge cost-cutter. The private sector is nowhere near the pressure government is under to reduce costs.

CRN: Given the complexity, isn't it going to be difficult--especially for Novell--to market the concept of secure identity management?

Stone: Marketing is a challenge in the Web services world.

CRN: Well, with the war in Iraq [nearly] over and the second half of 2003 approaching, should we expect to see companies spend more on IT products and services?

Stone: The economy [stinks] and IT spending [stinks]. The Iraq thing has helped. But we're managing things as if there's zero IT spending. Some have increased spending in areas like cost savings and ROI, but there's very little risk-taking.

CRN: Do customers view Web services as an ROI or a risky capital expenditure?

Stone: It depends on how you pitch it. Customers get the rip-and-replace message from Microsoft with .Net, but we don't pitch it that way. Web services is an ROI. It's taking the components you already have, and exposing it as a Web interface.

CRN: Novell announced a big move to Linux this week, and some would say it's pretty late in the game. Why did Novell bite the bullet now?

Stone: We've been listening to customers. They wanted to see where our vision was headed. They wanted to know how wide we'd open the door... and we think it'll be Linux. Now our customers can plan. We're getting good marks for that. We're not late. We're early. We're putting services on Linux.

CRN: But hasn't Novell been forced to go Linux because [it is] getting hit hard by Linux growth on the server side? Even one customer said this morning Novell NetWare has gotten hit harder than Microsoft from Linux on Intel.

Stone: It's a lot of things. Business climate, reality--NetWare has been dropping off over time and the reality is services going forward. Customers don't care about a NOS, they want an open environment and the ability to have file, print services.

CRN: Novell eDirectory is also a big focus for Novell. We heard Novell is in discussions with Red Hat about integrating eDirectory as the directory for Linux. What do you say to that?

Stone: We're talking to a lot of partners. We're talking to lots of companies, and eDirectory is bundled with many applications. But we need a bigger fish.

CRN: What's your take on the status of the named accounts-named partner model?

Stone: It's moving along relatively slowly. There have been so many changes. We did a demand agent program. We're working on getting skills sets up for identity management. There are an enormous number of changes.