As an immediate reaction to the recent announcement of Attachmate’s intention to acquire Novell, covered in depth by my colleagues and synthesized by Chris Voce in his recent blog post, I have received a string of inquiries about the probable fate of SUSE LINUX. Should we continue to invest? Will Attachmate kill it? Will it be sold?
Reduced to its essentials the answer is that we cannot predict the eventual ownership of SUSE Linux, but it is almost certain to remain a viable and widely available Linux distribution. SUSE is one of the crown jewels of Novell’s portfolio, with steady growth, gaining market share, generating increasing revenues, and from the outside at least, a profitable business.
Attachmate has two choices with SUSE – retain it as a profitable growth engine and attachment point for other Attachmate software and services, or package it up for sale. In either case they have to continue to invest in the product and its marketing. If Attachmate chooses to keep it, SUSE Linux will behave as it did with Novell. If they sell it, its acquirer will be foolish to do anything else. Speculation about potential acquirers has included HP, IBM, Cisco and Oracle, all of whom could make use of a Linux distribution as an internal product component in addition to the software and service revenues it could engender. But aside from an internal platform, for SUSE to have value as an industry alternative to Red Hat, it would have to remain vendor agnostic and widely available.
With the inescapable caveat that this is a developing situation, my current take on SUSE Linux is that there is no reason to back away from it or to fear that it will disappear into the maw of some giant IT company.
Newshit today that Novell will be acquired by Attachmate, which in turn is owned by an investment group led by Francisco Partners, Golden Gate Capital and Thoma Bravo.
My colleague, Chris Voce, has posted about what this means to Infrastructure & Operations professionals.
Here are my observations regarding the impact on and implications for the vendor community:
This is a deal focused on systems management. It's a deal for what Novell gives Attachmate in the systems management space by way of market share (led by ZENworks), portfolio-expanding technology (BSM, CMBD, etc.), and tech innovation (virtualization and cloud).
This puts SUSE on the auction block. Most of Novell is staying as a separate brand alongside NetIQ and Attachmate. SUSE is also becoming another brand. Given that there are so many ways to divvy up Novell (e.g., merging Novell's systems and security management with NetIQ), SUSE is conspicuous as its own brand. It's certainly not core to Attachmate, and this brings up all sorts of speculation as to whether they plan on selling off SUSE (or be made an offer too good to pass up). There are the obvious acquirers worth speculating about: IBM and HP. Other candidates include Oracle, EMC, Cisco, or Dell: Anyone with an appliance business moving up the stack, or in Oracle’s case a platform business expanding to sell appliances, could potentially turn SUSE into a key asset. SAP is another contender. Any acquisition of SUSE could, in turn, put RedHat into play.
According to press releases here and here, Attachmate is acquiring Novell in a US $2.2 billion transaction. As an infrastructure and operations or security professional with investments in either company, when you see a headline like this, you'll wonder, "What does that mean to me?" Understanding the implications of acquisitions is a task that's getting harder and harder, particularly when the two players each have broad product portfolios with some overlap. I've gathered feedback and worked with my colleagues Eveline Oehrlich, Jean-Pierre Garbani, John Kindervag, Glenn O’Donnell, Jonathan Penn, and Galen Schreck to synthesize and discuss what this means to customers. Here's our take:
First, Novell brings with it about $1 billion in cash, so the net purchase price is roughly $1.2 billion, not $2.2 billion. Combine that with the ~$450 million from CPTN Holdings LLC, a consortium of tech companies organized by Microsoft, and there's far fewer actual dollars in play than it appears. Attachmate states that it intends to keep Novell and SUSE as two separate operating units. Forrester believes that in the long term, SUSE might be attractive to a number of vendors. IBM and HP are likely suitors, but we wouldn't rule out a dark horse like Cisco or Oracle. For more on this, check out Rich Fichera's blog post.