VMware's Novell SUSE Linux buy out runs into a snag

There's no doubt about it. VMware wants to buy Novell's SUSE Linux and open-source divisions. But, according to a Reuters report, Novell's board really wants to sell NetWare and the identity management divisions at the same time, and no one wants to pay serious money for them.

In addition, I've heard that other companies are interested in buying Novell's SUSE Linux business. VMware may yet find itself in a Linux bidding war.

I haven't heard any names. Or, to be more exact, I haven't heard any names that I think are likely to be serious bidders. Jay Lyman, the open-source analyst for The 451 Group, thinks VMware remains among the likely candidates, as does IBM or CA." He doesn't think Oracle will be in the mix. "Oracle's still on the Red Hat path. But, "Another wild-card for SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) is Microsoft. We will see."

I still see VMware as the front-runner. IBM likes to use and service Linux, the company has never had any interest in the Linux distribution business. I can't imagine Microsoft, with Steve Ballmer at its head, buying a Linux company. Ask me again after Microsoft's get some fresh blood at the top and it may be a different story.

As for Oracle, yes, they're focusing on both using RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) and abusing the company behind RHEL. Ellison has no interest in Novell. CA? I just don't see Novell's operating systems, Linux or NetWare, being a good match for that company.

For what it's worth, I think HP may want to get into the Linux server business by buying SUSE Linux. The root of the problem isn't that Novell can't find a Linux buyer. That's easy. The real reason why Novell is playing coy with VMware and other potential buy-out suitors is that everyone wants Novell's Linux and no one wants the rest of the company.

According to the Reuters report, Novell's board … is unwilling to part with its best performing unit SUSE Linux alone and be left with a shell of legacy assets." Many private equity companies have expressed interest in Novell's other business lines, but Novell's asking price seems to be keeping them away. As one source put it to Reuters, "Look at the numbers: the Linux business is what everyone wants. Once you strip that out the rest is just a dying cow."

That's pretty much true. That said, you can still make steak from a dying cow.

Indeed, Attachmate, which is owned by private equity firms, such as Golden Gate Capital and Francisco Partners, is one of the companies that is interested in Novell's other assets and they make their living turn dying technologies into tasty steaks. Attachmate may not, however, want to pay as much as Novell's board would like.

Now, it seems that Novell is toying with a variety of other options besides simply selling the company off in two or more portions. These include exploring an IPO for some of the company or remaining independent.

I can also see Novell keeping on as its own company. They've managed for years. I don't see Novell's stock holders being one bit happy about such a move, but they could do it. As for an IPO, in this economy? I don't think so.

Face it Novell, your only real value as a going 21st century concern is as a Linux company. You've known that for years. Deal with the fact that the rest of the company is only going to continue to lose value as time goes on, and either make the sale or end the auction and keep on trying to be a strong number two to Red Hat's number one.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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