Virtually Speaking: Novell Shells Out for PlateSpin

When a new technology explodes, as virtualization has, it's not unusual, and to some degree expected, for a proliferation of new companies centered around the technology to spawn.

What does the Linux company's virtualization play mean?

There is a widely held belief that many of these companies, especially the smaller ones, exist with the aim of being acquired.

Last week, while most eyes were focused on VMworld Europe, Novell made a play for PlateSpin.

Novell, which has been remaking itself since it acquired SUSE back in 2003, is going virtual, and it's paying $205 million in cash to do so. Not a bad price for a company that, rumor has it, had been shopping itself around, and a figure that should excite many of the small fish looking for a bigger pond.

Novell, which is no stranger to virtualization when one considers SUSE Enterprise Linux Server 10 includes the Xen hypervisor, and virtual machine management capabilities are part of Novell's Zenworks Orchestrator systems management software.

The acquisition of PlateSpin plugs the holes in its data center virtualization management offerings.

"Our PlateSpin acquisition provides a critical piece in completing our commitment to deliver the most complete IT management solutions and platforms for both physical and virtual infrastructures," InternetNews noted that Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian said in a conference call discussing the deal.

PlateSpin's three products can now be integrated into Novell's product portfolio: PlateSpin Forge, a disaster-recovery hardware appliance; PowerConvert, a workload optimization tool; and PowerRecon, a data center utilization intelligence application.

Although Novell intends to integrate both the the corporate entity itself and its products into its Systems and Resource Management business unit, but it plans to retain the overall PlateSpin company and product brand names, for now. Novell will continue operation of PlateSpin's Toronto facility but will combine PlateSpin and Novell offices and facilities elsewhere.

The deal is expected to close next month, which is the end of Novell's second fiscal quarter.

PlateSpin noted in a publicly released statement that the acquisition will further enhance Novell's leadership in open source virtualization as it will provide tools that to more easily move physical workloads to Xen-based virtual machines; however, Novell was clear that it has not plans to open source PlateSpin's technology at this time.

While the acquisition is big news for PlateSpin, it's less clear what it means for Novell. If it is a Linux company, which is had taken great pains to prove it is and at best is mediocre, will PlateSpin enhance its offerings? Or, will the acquisition facilitate a move into the virtualization space, with Linux directing its course.

The precedents and players involved make this one to watch.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

This article was originally published on Mar 4, 2008
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