Novell is planning to shake off its image as a networking company and relaunch itself as a leader in storage management.
The company has unveiled a range of new and existing products that it says will provide users with the ability to manage data stored across the whole enterprise, including mobile devices.
The final components of the strategy will be announced at Novell's Brainshare conference next month.
"The new storage paradigm is data where we need it," said Dan Lawyer, product manager for Novell's Net Management Group. "The users have the data with them wherever they go and the company benefits."
Novell said that it has the support of powerful industry partners, such as IBM, Compaq and EMC, and that it is currently the only vendor capable of providing this level of support for an organisation's storage needs.
The key to Novell's solution is its e-Directory, which acts as a central point of control to oversee storage management policies and ensure that data is kept synchronised and backed up across different devices.
"Between 40 and 80 per cent of an organisation's intellectual property is held on laptop computers," said Lawyer. "If I drop my machine or lose it, that can be a huge problem. Using Novell's solution, I can just go to another machine and get my systems back."
He explained that the strategy is not a 'rip and replace' solution, but will work with any mix of technologies, including Microsoft and Unix, while acting as a gateway to network attached storage and storage area networks.
The main rallying cry for the new offensive is return on investment. The solution aims to save time and money by automating the synchronisation and back up of data across networks.
"Microsoft says it can do this, but you need a virtual private network connection to do the synchronisation," explained Lawyer. "With our solution, you just need an HTTP [internet] connection and data automatically stays in synch. We are significantly ahead of the competition, especially in managing the mobile workforce."
He added that Novell is working with partners to ensure compatibility with other related products, such as IBM's Tivoli and Caminosoft's hierarchical management software. EMC, Hewlett Packard and Veritas are also involved in supporting the initiative.
Novell will use a variety of channels for tackling the market: its direct sales force; its resellers; and by alliances with the big consultancies such as Deloitte Touche, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
IDC recently forecast that the storage services market will be worth more than $10bn in Europe by 2005 as IT managers strive to maximise return on investment from existing storage hardware.
Whether resellers will see much from the business is still unclear. Mike Williams, of Novell reseller Centralis, said: "We wouldn't get involved with storage management. We just look after ZENworks and Citrix integration."
Novell's ZENworks (zero effort networks) covers storage management at a desktop level, and aims to minimise network administration including, for instance, desktop 'C:' drive back up and the automatic updating of desktop antivirus software.
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