Novell is making a push into the high-end systems integration market, however local officials have rushed to hose down speculation that the move will put them in conflict with their existing channel partners.
The company has announced NDS Integration - a compilation of technology and customised integration services that synchronises a Novell Directory Services (NDS) database with any PeopleSoft enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. NDS Integration will be available through Novell's Consulting Services arm. This is the first time Novell's consulting business has offered to integrate anything more than its own products.
In Australia, that consulting arm is "growing strongly", local officials said. NDS Integration will target Novell's very large accounts "where customers are demanding that we have some direct involvement in the project", said Gary Saddington, Novell's Australasian manager for Consulting Services.
He denied, however, that Novell was looking to bolster its profits by making a play for the lucrative network services business.
"I can see how on the surface that would appear to be the case. But in reality, it costs Novell a heck of a lot of money to maintain a services business. We make very little margin on it," he said.
"If we can cover costs then we've done a good job, if we make a small profit then we've done an even better job," Saddington added.
"But we're not primarily interested in building a huge services organisation. We're simply trying to have sufficient resources so that customers' business needs are met."
ARN asked Novell why it wouldn't invest this money in transferring those skills demanded by customers to its integration partners.
"Novell Consulting is all about skills transfer," Saddington claimed, "to our customers, but more importantly to our partners because they are the ones that will have the ongoing relationship.
"We only engage on a project basis and are only involved for a very short period of time. Once the work is done we withdraw.
"It's the channel partner that is there from the outset."
Novell officials said the benefit of the PeopleSoft services is that by integrating NDS and PeopleSoft, network administrators will not have to maintain redundant employee directories and will have fewer passwords to manage.
Additionally, the service lets end users maintain their personal employee records, which reduces the cost of database administration.
With this level of integration, an NDS user account is automatically created on the network when a new employee is added to the PeopleSoft system.
The system then automatically provides access to generally available network resources, such as applications, printers and servers, without requiring net administrator assistance.
Some industry observers said that a foray into the services business was a necessary step in Novell's plan to push NDS as the connecting point for all networked resources, hardware and enterprise applications.
"A lot of shops would like an integrated directory, but they don't know where to start," says Jon Oltsik, an analyst with Forrester Research Group.
"Novell has an opportunity to use NDS as a lever into the world of directory enabling enterprise applications," Oltsik says.
Novell is planning to offer similar high-end integration services for other ERP installations, such as those based on SAP programs and customised database applications built on Oracle's Oracle8 databases, says Greg Hudson, vice president of Novell's Consulting Services.