Exchanging Knowledge At BrainShare 2010

Happy Together

Novell customers and channel partners were reunited last week at the company's BrainShare 2010 conference in Salt Lake City. Novell cancelled the annual event last year because of the recession. More than 2,000 people attended, far fewer than the 7,000 that attended in 2001 and the 5,000 in 2002. But one source said the number included 500 new attendees and a Novell partner said this year's attendees represented the company's most serious customers.

N Is For Novell

BrainShare attendees entering one doorway to The Salt Palace conference center were greeted with this almost surreal, giant red "N" -- which, of course is Novell's logo.

Elephant, What Elephant?

Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian began his keynote address by announcing that Novell had rejected an unsolicited $2 billion buy-out offer from investment firm Elliott Associates L.P., saying the bid was "inadequate" and "undervalues the company's franchise and growth prospects."

Hovsepian called the situation, "The elephant in the room" -- then showed an obviously doctored picture of himself casually sitting on a couch next to a huge elephant.

But Novell has not ruled out accepting a higher acquisition bid from Elliott or any other potential acquirer. The company's board of directors has launched a review of various alternatives to enhance shareholder value, including a stock repurchase or cash dividend, strategic partnerships and alliances, joint ventures, a recapitalization or a sale of the company.

Quickening Pulse

Colleen O'Keefe, Novell senior vice president and general manager of collaboration solutions and global services, debuted the company's new Pulse cloud-based collaboration software that combines real-time authoring, communications and social messaging capabilities.

The first release of the application, which O'Keefe called a "breakout product," is slated for mid-year. But BrainShare attendees are being given accounts to try out an early version of the collaboration software.

The Pulse software will offer Novell channel partners an opportunity to provide implementation, consulting, training and custom development services around the product, said Adam Gray, CTO at Novacoast, a Santa Barbara-based Novell channel partner. He predicted that a large percentage of Novell's customer base would ultimately adopt Pulse.

Move To OES, Young Man!

While the exhibition show floor never felt crowded, traffic at Novell's booths, including the Installation and Migration Depot shown here, seemed steady. Some of that might have been driven by the fact that Novell is phasing out NetWare, its long-time flagship product. Executives at BrainShare said the product is now under "extended support" and no further development work is being done on the software. Novell is encouraging customers, ISVs and resellers to migrate to Open Enterprise Server 2 network operating system, the successor to NetWare.

Seeking An Identity

Demonstration areas for Novell products were also popular, such as stations that provided attendees with a look at the latest features in Groupwise, ZENworks and File Management Suite.

Here attendees were given a sneak peak at the upcoming Identity Manager 4, Novell's lead identity management software, which is slated for formal debut at the BrainShare conference in Amsterdam in May. The new software will help businesses manage user identities across physical, virtual and cloud-computing systems.

Novell takes the position that as more computing is spread over physical, virtual and cloud systems, identity management will be critical for managing security, privacy and compliance across mixed computing environments. "How do you manage all these environments in a secure way? It's all about identity," Hovsepian said in his keynote.

Wheeling And Dealing

Also popular on the show floor were presentations and demonstrations of products by Novell technology partners. GroupLink drew big crowds to demonstrations of its help desk applications that work within Novell environments. (GroupLink also makes CRM and sales force automation applications that work with Novell software.) Visitors to the GroupLink booth got to play "Super Deal or Not Deal" with a new car as the top prize.

Desperately Seeking Certification

While keynote speeches and things to see on the exhibition show floor are all well and good, many come to BrainShare to fill up their own brains by attending training sessions like this one on Novell software.

Attention Novell Shoppers!

Show attendees can't go home empty-handed. This show-goer took time out to peruse the selection of Novell-logoed clothing and accessories for sale at the BrainShare store.

Riding Into Town

BrainShare included the third annual Biker Bash sponsored by Novell and Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), a national organization of motorcycle enthusiasts that raises money for programs for abused children (http://www.bacausa.com). The highlight of the fund-raising activities at the bash, held at the Salt Palace, was a raffle for a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle. BrainShare attendees also could donate money by purchasing BACA T-shirts and pins, getting temporary tattoos and getting their picture taken sitting on a motorcycle.

The Mild Bunch

The Biker Bash produced some interesting mixtures of BACA members in full biker gear, software industry executives in blue blazers and hard-core techies. Just goes to show that a worthy cause can bring together people of all types.

Belly Up To The Biker Bar

The Biker Bash decor included this motorcycle suspended over the central bar while the house band played rock 'n roll classics in the background.

Biker Bash Grub

Just as the party brought together an interesting mix of people, it offered a broad range of cuisine. Perhaps most intriguing were these rabbit and rattlesnake sausages on a bun (left). They were right next to the veggie burgers (right).

Software And Superheroes

The partner reception on the exhibition show floor featured acrobats and actors dressed as super heroes, villains and characters from movies. Here Flash and Supergirl perform high above the crowd.

Mr. Roboto?

Wandering around the exhibition show floor and at the evening events was this grinning robot promoting Novell's SUSE Studio development kit for building Linux-based appliances. But if you looked real close under the robot's tracks you could see the feet of the person inside.