Careers: Interviews
Jack Messman: Chairman and CEO of Novell shares his views

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has an exclusive interview with Jack Messman, Chairman, and CEO of Novell.

Jack brings a long history of senior executive achievement and experience to Novell from leading the top companies in the technology, energy, and entertainment/broadcasting fields. Moreover, he is a director of RadioShack Corporation and Safeguard Scientifics, Inc.

Prior executive roles include:
President and Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Technology Partners where he led its growth as an international e-business services provider (Messman joined the Cambridge Board of Directors in 1992); Chairman and CEO of Union Pacific Resources Group Inc. (UPRG), a North American independent oil and gas exploration and production company;  Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Pollution Control, Inc., an environmental services company;  Managing Director of Mason Best Company of Houston, an investment banking firm; Chairman and CEO of Somerset House Corporation, a publishing company; Executive Vice President-Chief Financial Officer and a member of the Board of Directors for Warner Amex Cable Communications, Inc.; Executive Vice President and member of the Board of Directors of Safeguard Scientifics, Inc.; President and CEO of Novell, Inc. from 1982-1983; President and CEO of Norcross Inc., a consumer products company; Prior to 1973, as a partner in a Philadelphia investment banking firm.

Jack graduated from the University of Delaware with a BSc in chemical engineering and received his MBA with Distinction from the Harvard School of Business Administration.

Discussion:

Q: Jack, you are driving some remarkable strategies for long-term enterprise value and success. With your demanding schedule, thank you for taking the time in sharing Novell’s vision for the future.

A: My pleasure, Stephen. It's always good to talk with you. Yes, it's been an interesting year. A fun year, actually. Novell is back!

Q: Under the backdrop of an economic recovery, you are leading Novell into providing long-term business value to its customers. What lessons have you learned in the last few years and how will this shape Novell’s future vision/mission?

A: Our transition over the last few years has really been about meeting customer needs. Novell has been known for great technology since our birth more than 20 years ago. But in the mid-1990s, we lost focus, creating a situation in which customers became confused about what Novell was doing, and in what direction we were heading. We righted the ship technologically in the late 1990s by strongly embracing a cross-platform approach – that is, building our products to work on multiple operating systems – and leveraging our directory to create identity-based solutions for security and resource management. We then improved how we work with and bring value to our customers with the 2001 Novell merger with Cambridge Technology Partners, which gave us the capability to speak more effectively to businesses and to better understand and help them meet the challenges they face.

Our move into Linux in the last two years very much reflects our listening to our customers. They continue to value the reliability and security of Novell's solutions, and our history of working with enterprises. But they want these capabilities on a growing platform. That's Linux. So the key lesson that we've learned is that we need to build to customers needs, not just build technically elegant products.

Q: Can you comment on Open Enterprise Server and Novell’s current Linux strategy?

A: Open Enterprise Server is our dual kernel server offering that's just coming to market. It’s all about giving our customers a choice. Novell Open Enterprise Server is a secure, highly available suite of services that combines our NetWare and SUSE LINUX platforms to deliver proven file, print, management, collaboration and application services in an open environment. It works on both the NetWare kernel and the Linux kernel, so customers can choose what they prefer, as well as a series of services that will run on either platform, with a common management framework.  

Open Enterprise Server provides customers a number of benefits. It helps them avoid single operating system platform lock-in. They can upgrade from NetWare, Windows or UNIX on their own terms. They benefit from the freedom of Linux and open source. They gain more out of existing IT resources and skills. Importantly, they can upgrade their infrastructure without disrupting their users.

Existing NetWare users gain the benefits of Linux for application hosting. Or they can choose to remain on NetWare. They can add Linux to their environment in a non-disruptive way, and OES is great for server consolidations. It's an ideal way for NetWare customers to stay with NetWare while they expand the use of Linux for their IT infrastructure at low cost and low risk.

Q: How do Novell’s products and services integrate into the strategic planning for enterprises and support their competitive advantage?

A: Customers face a series of IT challenges, but most can be boiled down to optimization – getting the most out of their investments in IT. Customers want to use what they have, they want everything to work together, they want to manage their environments as a single network, and they want everything protected.  And, or course, they want to do all this at the lowest cost possible. Companies that are able to effectively address these challenges can use IT as a strategic asset and enjoy a competitive advantage over those who are unable to tame the technology beast.

Novell can help companies achieve this objective through our two focus areas – identity services and open source. Our identity services, built around Novell's industry-leading directory, help customers securely manage all the devices on their network. Leveraging our exteNd product line of web services offerings, customers can integrate disparate systems together. Our Nsure identity management offerings provide the comprehensive security companies demand. And doing this all on an open source platform like SUSE LINUX makes it cost effective. So we can go far towards helping companies make IT a strategic asset, rather than simply a cost of doing business.

Q: Give us some predictions about open source growth and what do these figures mean to CEOs?

A: I have vested interest in portraying Linux as growing rapidly, so you don't have to believe my projections. But take IDC's! They're projecting Linux growing at the server level by 25% over the coming few years, and growing at the desktop level by 40%. Clearly, Linux has been expanding in leaps and bounds, and all indications are that this will continue. 

I also believe open source beyond Linux will really take off in the next 2 - 3 years. JBoss for application servers, MySQL for databases, and other applications are making it possible to create a mixed source enterprise stack that combines great proprietary and open source software. I believe companies, Novell included, who can help customers put together and leverage these mixed source stacks will find plenty of demand in the next few years. CEOs have to look at open source as an opportunity to take back control in the IT relationship. Open source gives the power to the customer. This is a good thing.

Q: With your deep knowledge of enterprises, technology and business value, choose three areas that need addressing and share your views in each area.

Area 1:
The biggest way technology can add value to business is to have the technology adapt to business needs, rather than forcing business to adapt to how the technology works. Let's face it, enterprise computing has largely been driven by a series of large vendor enterprise application offerings like Oracle, SAP and others. Vendors have done a good job trying to capture functionality that will help the broadest range of companies. But the bottom line is that a CRM application developed for a retail store doesn't necessarily work for a car manufacturer. So organizations have been forced to try to adapt what's been available to their circumstances, often at considerable expense. I believe open source and web services are beginning to shift this around, to allow for more modular, more agile IT infrastructures that adjust to the business. But there's a tremendous amount of existing IT infrastructure out there that companies won't just throw out, so it'll be a long process.

Area 2:
Security is usually cited as the number one priority of CIOs, and the area of greatest concern. We're seeing the need for a new definition of security – one that goes well beyond intrusion detection and virus protection to recognize that security can only be achieved by addressing it at all levels. Its about controlling who has access and what they  have access to, and being able to dynamically respond as roles and rules change. This need will continue to grow as new technologies, like virtualization, become more widespread. That's why we're so focused on identity-driven computing, which we believe is the best way to provide end-to-end security.

Area 3:
For my third area, let me go to a little higher level. I think there are interesting social challenges from technology that we're only beginning to grasp, and these will impact business significantly. Companies are becoming more virtual. Employees are used to not meeting colleagues, or management, face to face. This has led initially to increased productivity as work becomes unconnected to a specific location, but can instead happen anywhere. But it also creates new challenges for CEOs and management in driving teamwork and creating a corporate culture. Careers are going to be increasing modular – like open source. It will be much harder in the future building strong, large companies with dedicated long-term employees. That's a management challenge, caused in part by the new technologies.

Q: You bring such knowledge, wisdom, and accomplishment to the industry. Your views are widely valued and acknowledged. With your busy schedule, we appreciate and thank you for the time you have spent with us.

A:  Always a pleasure, Stephen.  Thanks.

Copyright Network Professional Association® 1994-2017. All Rights Reserved.
NPA Privacy Statement