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Attachmate assimilates Novell in acquisition

Novell Several years after swallowing up HP connectivity vendor WRQ, Attachmate has announced a deal to make another brand vanish: Novell, the once-groundbreaking supplier of networking and workplace collabortion solutions. At the same time that Attachmate was paying $2.2 billion for Novell, a consortium of tech companies led by Microsoft was buying up $450 million in patents from the former owner of WordPerfect and Notes.

Acquisitions can submerge brands, but well-established technology sometimes manages to retain its profile. Compaq created ProLiant servers before HP bought up the company in 2000, but ProLiant remains the top enterprise server brand among HP products. For awhile Attachmate called itself AttachmateWRQ when it purchased the largest vendor of HP 3000 related software -- by number of licenses anyway. At the time of the 2005 merger, WRQ said it served 6 million PC desktops across a wide range of host operating environments.

Within a year WRQ was dropped off the company name at Attachmate, as well as out of the lexicon of the product names at the firm. Attachmate maintains the Reflection brand for its Terminal Emulation product line, the Reflection for HP product is on Version 14.1 today, but the latest release of Reflection for 2011 doesn't have the 3000-specific protocols included. Attachmate does offer a limited time evaluation of Reflection for HP.

Novell has a product lineup that will provide a rich bed of technology for Attachmate: server operating systems, identity management tools, plus collaboration products including e-mail; a virtualization system called ZENworks and directory services. Novell also owns the SUSE distro of Linux, the most popular version of that OS after Red Hat's. The acquisition spells out Attachmate's intention to run SUSE Linux as a business separate from the rest of the company.

The deal will probably have the greatest impact on migrating HP 3000 shops which are choosing Linux as their MPE/iX alternative. HP offers a value-add for customers who choose HP's SUSE implementation plus buy the all-important HP Support service. HP adds in the SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension an integrated suite of open source clustering technologies "that enable enterprises to implement highly available physical and virtual Linux clusters." HP says the Extension "helps organizations maintain business continuity, protect data integrity, and reduce unplanned downtime for their mission-critical Linux workloads."

There was a time when the HP 3000 was in its heyday that Novell sparkled as an innovation hub for network technology. Before the TCP/IP stack had migrated to the world of PCs and Windows, Novell's networks linked millions of desktops and gave many users a mail system and collaborative work tool in Notes.

The rise of the cloud computing strategy, as well as Google's Apps, has put Novell on the defensive in the business application space. The company put itself up for sale earlier this year. In contast, Attachmate was acquired by the holding company which had already purchased WRQ in 2005; Golden Gate Partners merged the two firms after WRQ founder Doug Walker retired in late 2004.

Investment firms Francisco Partners and Thoma Bravo have since joined Golden Gate Capital in Attachmate's owner lineup. Elliott Management Corporation, one of Novell’s largest shareholders, will become an equity shareholder in Attachmate Corp. Once the deal closes, Attachmate will manage a brand portfolio consisting of Attachmate, Novell, SUSE and NetIQ. That last brand was acquired by WRQ before the company was merged with Attachmate; the new management decided that NetIQ would be the surviving brand going forward, rather than WRQ.

Jeff Hawn, who became WRQ's chairman upon Walker's retirement and then chairman and CEO of the combined AttachmateWRQ, remains at the helm of the company five years later.

"We are very excited about this transaction as it greatly complements our existing portfolio," Hawn said.  "Novell has an established record of innovation, impressive technology and brand assets, and a leading ecosystem of partnerships and talented employees. The addition of Novell to our Attachmate and NetIQ businesses will enhance the spectrum of solutions we can offer to customers. We fully support Novell's commitment to its customers and we look forward to continuing to invest for the benefit of Novell's customers and partners."