Novell acquires PlateSpin for $205m! Cash!

I know what you're thinking. "Novell is still around?

I know what you're thinking. "Novell is still around? And they have an extra $205m in cash?" I don't know too much about PlateSpin or Novell (in the context of 2008), so in this article I'll look at both companies and try to establish a framework for a conversation from readers about what this could mean.

PlateSpin

PlateSpin is primarily a software company. Their main product, PowerConvert, reminds me a little tiny bit of Ardence / Citrix Provisioning Server. PowerCovert is sort of the "ultimate" migration / conversion tool for P2V, V2P, V2V, and P2P migrations. The focus, though, is not so much on the "one time" migrations. Instead, PowerConvert is really designed to move server images (or "workloads" to use the trendy name) back and forth between "computing capacity" (physical servers or VMs). PowerConvert is compatible with most operating systems (Windows, Linux, and others) and most virtualization systems (Microsoft Virtual Server, VMware, and all the Xen-based products).

Like I said, in addition to the one-time conversions / migrations between platforms or hardware, PowerConvert can perform continuous syncronization (file-level or block-level) between systems (local or remote) and bring up a backup system within seconds of a primary system failing. And to take that a step further, PowerConvert can create flexible images that are not hardware dependent, inserting custom drivers or kernel components as needed to ensure that an image workload from one server can run on another server.

PlateSpin's second main product is only a few weeks old, called "Forge."As you can imagine, the PowerConvert software product would make a pretty cool backup solution. (Imagine, for example, a single VMware server that with a huge disk that could be in sync with any server in your environment. If a server failed, a VM could be launched instantly and that server could be up and running again, regardless of whether the failed server was physical or virtual.) That idea, in a nutshell, is what PlateSpin Forge is. Forge is hardware. (Treated as an appliance, actually.) It's huge server with 16GB of RAM and 2.5TB of storage. You can use it to continuously back-up dozens of live servers, and if any one (or several of them) fail, mirror images of them can be up and running in minutes.

The Forge appliance is in the $50k price neighborhood, based on VMware VI3 and of course PlateSpin's PowerConvert. And since PowerConvert can move workloads seamlessly between physical and virtual environments, and between different hypervisors, you can basically drop this Forge box anywhere and it can provide a nice business continuity solution for a lot of different scenarios.

So these are both really cool things.

Novell

Seriously, I'm not trying to diss Novell here. But other than them buying SuSe a few years ago and other than all the open source ads in the IT magazines, I really have no idea what Novell does anymore. A quick check of their website shows that they have, wow, something like 100 products. I wonder if they can do anything truly interesting anymore or if now they're just a huge collection house like Quest Software or Computer Associates or IBM/Lotus/Tivoli or HP Software.

Wow! ZENworks is still around! Cool! There's even a ZENworks Virtual Machine Manager, but I sure can't find too many details about it. (I hope people don't confuse ZEN and Xen.) Okay, now we're getting somewhere. So Novell does recognize that virtualization exists. And it appears that they're going to be hypervisor-agnostic too, so that's good for PlateSpin.

But really, I have no idea what this will mean? Is PlateSpin better off now that Novell owns them? How open source-friendly was PlateSpin? Does that matter for Novell?

Hey! Citrix likes this move

Check out this Novell / PlateSpin quote from Peter Levine, SVP of Citrix's Virtualization & Management Division.

"Citrix has a great relationship with PlateSpin and is excited to see them become part of Novell's open data center management portfolio. With this addition, Novell will be able to offer an even richer set of tools to manage strategic virtual infrastructure systems like Citrix XenServer across a heterogeneous data center."

Citrix has never been particularly open source-friendly, although after acquiring XenSource they at least have to pay the open source community lip service.

I ask you, readers: What does this mean for all involved?

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Wow, who knew Novell had cash? Platespin kind of has a comfortably off looney grandfather. That expensive suit of his is a bit shiny (from age and nameless fluids) but he's got GREAT candy.

So, from great ignorance, I ask: What does Novell bring to the table? Is SUSE Linux something special? Does it have a strong and powerful following? Is there great gobs of IP involved? Platespin PowerConvert is the Cadillac of  P2V, what does it get? I'm sure it's not marketing or distribution or a higher balcony to shout from.  What can these guys do together? 

Oracle announced it had a virtualization solution, then Sun gets a presence. This must the lucky third... 

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One of my favourite features of PowerConvert was the ability to caputre images of a dozen servers say in New York, NY to a drive, ship the drive to Sydney, Australia restore them to blades, Ardence or VMs and then "sync" the two at either a file or block level, then when your ready "flip the switch" on the ones in New York. Voila, 12 servers migrated to a new datacenter. PlateSpin's project based licensing made that cost-effective (vs. their normal "per workload" licensing).

 The company I am working with is in the position to do some substantial global datacenter consolidations over the next 18 months and that was a key tool I was planning on making use of, I'm hoping that Novell doesn't do something stupid and bundle it into ZENworks without maintaining the project edition.

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you know how we all thought that some of Citrix's acquisitions didn't make sense at the time.  This is one of those acquisitions....the what the he*(& were you thinking? kind of acquisition.  I have to admit that in the long run Citrix's acquisition have made perfect strategic sense.  So I'm not going to try to decipher what the executives at Novell were thinking of strategically for the company. 

We can only hope that they won't stifle a great little company from being innovative and helping to alleviate administrative agony (PowerConvert) and help with capacity planning (PowerRecon) in the virtualization environments of the world.  I seriously hope that they let the newly acquired company do what they do, unlike Novell who can't seem to get out of their own way with their version of Xen.  I have never seen a company be so behind the curve with virtualization.  I only know of one client that is actually using that crap and they are struggling with it day in and day out.  I guess only time will tell on what Novell will do with the technology that Platespin brings to the table, in the meantime I'm putting my money into and on VMW and CTXS.  Put Novell back under the rock from which they came and write this one off folks.

My two cents

Cheers

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Don't forget that Peter Levine was the CEO of XenSource, so he's going to be a very open source-friendly person.  In addition, I believe Novell has been pretty tight with Xen over the past few years (post SuSe merger, of course), and you can see by their virtualization page at http://www.novell.com/products/server/virtualization.html that the are a proponent.

One other thing to consider is that, while the company is named Novell, after the merger a large portion of Novell management was replaced by new blood, either from SuSe or from outside the organization.  In addition, Novell's headquarters was moved from Provo, Utah to Waltham, Mass (a suburb of Boston).  This signified a bit of a philosophical change for the company, moving HQ's from a place that is not so well-known for its technology to a place like Boston, which is a big time player anymore.

 

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Any idea what type of revenue that Platespin did in 2007 to justify the $205 million?
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Platespin had revenue of $20 mil in 2007 according to Reuters.  This means they were 20 times more profitable than XenSource when Citrix picked them up and Novell got them for less than half the price.  Bravo Novell!
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Reality doesnt have to enter the equation when dealing with companies trying to position themselves .

As many have said previously, lets hope they dont molest and degrade the products. I like the Michael keen suggestion about putting Novell under a rock. Its all been down hill since Netware 3 :)

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Microsoft learned the hard way that they can't try to offer everything you need in one package. The billions they have lost over the IE in Windows and related antitrust lawsuits have taught them that. So, what do they do? They continue to partner with Citrix, instead of buying them. They partner with Novell to include an option for Linux interoperatibility. Now the three of them have everything you need to blow VMware to pieces, but they will do it as three companies partnering, instead of Microsoft going it alone like they did with Netscape.

Citrix provides best of class datacenter based computing and a hypervisor that is not VMware, but through their partnership with Microsoft will work just as well if not better than Hyper-V. Novell provides a Linux distro and support, and now with PlateSpin an any to any workload migration solution. Microsoft brings the most popular Operating Systems, the core applications a business needs to operate, and application virtualization. Ideally Microsoft would have purchased PlateSpin, but I guess it was Novell's turn to acquire something. It would not surprise me if money from Microsoft somehow funded this acquisition. Now Microsoft should purchase DataCore, that is my vote anyway :)

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Microsoft and Novell Announce Broad Collaboration on Windows and Linux Interoperability and Support

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/nov06/11-02MSNovellPR.mspx

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I hope they molest the hell out of it and when they are done it feels so cheap and dirty that it gives itself away for free, or less than they charge now at least :) If the project based license was $20 to $50 per migration instead of $200 I don't know anyone that would not use it.
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That's another reason Citrix is supporting the deal. Novell isn't really relevant in the broader market anymore, but they are in the Linux (and Linux-oriented management) market. In that space, they are Microsoft's chosen management partner (mainly because Microsoft doesn't like the other options: Red Hat, Oracle and Sun). By supporting Novell, Citrix is really supporting Microsoft's broader System Center team and partnerships.

Remember also that Novell is one of the top contributors to the xen.org project after Intel, IBM and HP, so the Citrix guys who work on the hypervisor also have a good relationship with them. And Novell hates VMware. Bottom line, having PlateSpin as part of Novell keeps a really good technology in reasonably friendly hands for Citrix and Microsoft alike.

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You omitted PlateSPin PowerRecon... a significant virtual consolidation and capacity planning tool!
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I have to agree 100% with this comment.  It is shaping up to a 3 (Microsoft, Citrix, Novell) to 1 (VMware) fight.  Virtulization is shaping up to be the way of the datacenter of the future.   Granted, there have been multiple Linux, UNIX, and Mainframe virtulization techniques for decades, but now Windows is on the plate and all want a piece of the pie.

 Now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, IT infrastructures are going to look at server density for power, cooling, and space cost savings, and any solution that does not provide it for most of their Linux and Windows infrastructure is going to have a hard cell.

Microsoft, I believe does not have the experience or business direction to virtualize Linux Operating systems.  That leaves them at a severe disadvantage against VMware because it is not a complete solution.  So what do they do - Partner first with Novell and then with Citrix who has XEN.  You now have a more complete package.

VMware ESX is a strong product that can hold its own on the Windows / Linux infrastructure, but it is all custom code that is tailored for each model of machine - no white boxes allowed.  This makes it expensive.  I think that VMware made a big mistake with creating their own P2V solution.  It effectively forced PlateSpin out of a very lucrative market because no one had a competing product.

Platespin then became a x2x product with no discrimination.  Xen to VMware - sure, and also VMware to Xen or Hyper-V.

What this means for infrastructure - price wars and side wooing.  The next year it is going to be busy with more and more infrastructures going Intel virtual, and now 2 strong players.

 Me personally, I can't wait to see what happens

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I thought for sure Citrix would be striving to capture them to add more functions to Xen Server.  I wonder if that drove a price war with Novell to get the price so high.

 I could see Novell/MS/Citrix working together.  But it might be a hard sell for anyone from the old Novell days looking for a standalone system without MS.

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