The History of Novell g
   - By Jack Messman

Just after Brainshare US finished, Jack Messman, CEO of Novell agreed to an interview regarding the history of Novell

How did you first become involved with Novell? What were the events that led to the creation of Novell?

In 1981 a small company called Novell Data Systems received investment of $8 Million to make and sell a new computer system. At the time, the only desktop systems around were made by Apple, Commodore Tandy and Psion. This new system would include a Printer, data drive as well as the base processor. Unfortunately, one month prior to the release of Novell Data Systems computer, IBM introduced their first PC. Jack Messman was working for the Venture Capital company that had invested in Novell Data Systems. Jack was tasked to recoup as much as of $8 Million as possible and was sent to Provo to oversee orderly liquidation of the company.

Whilst working late one night, Jack heard some commotion in the small warehouse attached to the offices he worked. Jack went to investigate, a fortuitous decision. What he discovered were three young men playing a game, the same game, but on different machines. The name of the game was ‘Snipes’ the very first PC networked game. A text based maze game, the idea was to ‘blast’ your opponent whilst negotiating the maze.

Recent BYU college graduates  they had written Snipes between them. Jack was  struck by the game and actually recommended improving it by  adding the ricochet factor whereby bullets fired could rebound off maze walls and hit opponents around corners!

As a keen business man Jack also saw the commercial value of sharing information between different machines and commissioned the three young men on a long term contract to further develop the idea. The three students were Drew Major, Kyle Powell and Dale Neibour.

Jack Messman was able to arrange funding and structure for the new initiative and ran the organization until he found its first President one, Ray Noorda. The software was developed and its name, thought of by Jack, became NetWare, simply derived from the two words NETwork and softWARE  NetWare was born!

Note – Check out

When you play Snipes, know that you are holding a small piece of history in your hands. Not only was it one of the very first network applications ever written, it is also the ancient precursor of multi-player games like Doom and Quake that are so popular today. They may not want to admit it now, but I am quite certain that Drew Major and Kyle Powell played the world's first over-the-network "deathmatch" with Snipes, using the software that was to become Novell Netware, over twenty years ago. How's that for a little history?    

The company was renamed to Novell and by 1983 had gone public, also during 1983 Jack rejoined the board of directors.

By the late 1980’s Novell NetWare was the clear industry leader in Networking File and Print with over 70% market share

What have been your most memorable moments whilst with Novell? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Jack stated that the highlights whlist with Novell have been

Hiring Superset – the name of the organization that was made up of the three students.

Going public in 1983

Hiring Ray Noorda who led the company to great international success

The acquisition of UNIX which led Novell to the development of Directory Services

Some of the low points were the acquisition of WordPerfect Corporation, Borlands Quatrro Pro and DR DOS. These became a distraction to Novell’s core business.

What are the key events or dates in Novell's history?

1979      Creation of Novell Data Systems – Hardware company

1981      Jack Messman hires Superset to develop a data sharing PC network

1981        Product Named NetWare

1982        Ray Noorda appointed

1983        Novell goes public

1992        NetWare 4 released with innovative directory services

1999        NetWare 5 Released introducing open standards, cross platform services and pure IP support

1999        NDS renamed to eDirectory with version 8.5 release. Major performance and architecture changes including cross platform support for Windows, Linux, Solaris and UNIX

2001        Cambridge acquired giving Novell a focus on business solutions

2002        Silverstream Acquired giving application integration, client interaction and Web Services

2003        Novell launches Secure Identity Management Solutions that run in any environment

2003        Novell announces clear support for Open source community and Linux Kernel for NetWare 7

What, in your opinion, is the most significant contribution by Novell to the IT industry?

Novell created PC Networking

eDirectory is the most widely used directory service in the world

What do you feel have been the reasons for Novell's 20 year presence in the IT industry?

As a well known slogan goes ….it just works!

Novell creates innovative, reliable, scalable and secure technology. The very fact that the company still exists is a testimony to this. The customers who use Novell stick with the company due to its proven track record

What do you see as Novell's future?

With the acquisition of Cambridge Technologies and Silverstream Novell can now deliver a complete solutions approach. Traditionally Novell has been seen as a product based company, now, with all the pieces in place Novell offers business solutions to real customer needs, end to end, meaning from the person (or application) that requires resource  to the resources themselves. This encompasses, security, identity management, profiling, customized delivery, application integration, single sign on as well as the traditional file and print services now greatly enhanced. All our solutions are now oganised, under the One Net Vision, into collective solutions. NSURE – provides Secure Identity Management. Nterprise – delivers cross platform services, exteNd – gives application integration and Web Services with Ngage we can deliver project management, consultancy (business and technical) and Education along with our partners.

Novell will of course continue to build great technology but now we have the resources in place to deliver that technology to the highest level in any organization. All built on open standards with most being available across platform Novell solutions will integrate with any environment.

A big thank you to Jack for his time in giving this

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