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Digesting Novell financials

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It's a perennial question, "why would anyone use Novell any more?" Typically coming from people who only know Novell as "That NetWare company," or perhaps, "the company that we replaced with Exchange." These are the same people who are convinced Novell is a dying company who just doesn't know it yet.

Yeah, well. Wrong. Novell managed to turn the corner and wean themselves off of the NetWare cash-cow. Take the last quarterly statement, which you can read in full glory here. I'm going to excerpt some bits, but it'll get long. First off, their description of their market segments. I'll try to include relevant products where I know them.

We are organized into four business unit segments, which are Open Platform Solutions, Identity and Security Management, Systems and Resource Management, and Workgroup. Below is a brief update on the revenue results for the second quarter and first six months of fiscal 2009 for each of our business unit segments:



Within our Open Platform Solutions business unit segment, Linux and open source products remain an important growth business. We are using our Open Platform Solutions business segment as a platform for acquiring new customers to which we can sell our other complementary cross-platform identity and management products and services. Revenue from our Linux Platform Products category within our Open Platform Solutions business unit segment increased 25% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. This product revenue increase was partially offset by lower services revenue of 11%, such that total revenue from our Open Platform Solutions business unit segment increased 18% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

Revenue from our Linux Platform Products category within our Open Platform Solutions business unit segment increased 24% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. This product revenue increase was partially offset by lower services revenue of 17%, such that total revenue from our Open Platform Solutions business unit segment increased 15% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

[sysadmin1138: Products include: SLES/SLED]



Our Identity and Security Management business unit segment offers products that we believe deliver a complete, integrated solution in the areas of security, compliance, and governance issues. Within this segment, revenue from our Identity, Access and Compliance Management products increased 2% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In addition, services revenue was lower by 45%, such that total revenue from our Identity and Security Management business unit segment decreased 16% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

Revenue from our Identity, Access and Compliance Management products decreased 3% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In addition, services revenue was lower by 40%, such that total revenue from our Identity and Security Management business unit segment decreased 18% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

[sysadmin1138: Products include: IDM, Sentinal, ZenNAC, ZenEndPointSecurity]



Our Systems and Resource Management business unit segment strategy is to provide a complete “desktop to data center” offering, with virtualization for both Linux and mixed-source environments. Systems and Resource Management product revenue decreased 2% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In addition, services revenue was lower by 10%, such that total revenue from our Systems and Resource Management business unit segment decreased 3% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In the second quarter of fiscal 2009, total business unit segment revenue was higher by 8%, compared to the prior year period, as a result of our acquisitions of Managed Object Solutions, Inc. (“Managed Objects”) which we acquired on November 13, 2008 and PlateSpin Ltd. (“PlateSpin”) which we acquired on March 26, 2008.

Systems and Resource Management product revenue increased 3% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. The total product revenue increase was partially offset by lower services revenue of 14% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. Total revenue from our Systems and Resource Management business unit segment increased 1% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In the first six months of fiscal 2009 total business unit segment revenue was higher by 12% compared to the prior year period as a result of our Managed Objects and PlateSpin acquisitions.

[sysadmin1138: Products include: The rest of the ZEN suite, PlateSpin]



Our Workgroup business unit segment is an important source of cash flow and provides us with the potential opportunity to sell additional products and services. Our revenue from Workgroup products decreased 14% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In addition, services revenue was lower by 39%, such that total revenue from our Workgroup business unit segment decreased 17% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

Our revenue from Workgroup products decreased 12% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In addition, services revenue was lower by 39%, such that total revenue from our Workgroup business unit segment decreased 15% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

[sysadmin1138: Products include: Open Enterprise Server, GroupWise, Novell Teaming+Conferencing,

The reduction in 'services' revenue is, I believe, a reflection in a decreased willingness for companies to pay Novell for consulting services. Also, Novell has changed how they advertise their consulting services which seems to also have had an impact. That's the economy for you. The raw numbers:


Three months ended


April 30, 2009

April 30, 2008

(In thousands)


Net revenue
Gross
profit


Operating
income (loss)


Net revenue
Gross
profit


Operating
income (loss)

Open Platform Solutions


$ 44,112
$ 34,756

$ 21,451

$ 37,516
$ 26,702

$ 12,191

Identity and Security Management



38,846

27,559


18,306


46,299

24,226


12,920

Systems and Resource Management



45,354

37,522


26,562


46,769

39,356


30,503

Workgroup



87,283

73,882


65,137


105,082

87,101


77,849

Common unallocated operating costs





(3,406 )

(113,832 )



(2,186 )

(131,796 )























Total per statements of operations


$ 215,595
$ 170,313

$ 17,624

$ 235,666
$ 175,199

$ 1,667



























Six months ended


April 30, 2009

April 30, 2008

(In thousands)


Net revenue
Gross
profit


Operating
income (loss)


Net revenue
Gross
profit


Operating
income (loss)

Open Platform Solutions


$ 85,574
$ 68,525

$ 40,921

$ 74,315
$ 52,491

$ 24,059

Identity and Security Management



76,832

52,951


35,362


93,329

52,081


29,316

Systems and Resource Management



90,757

74,789


52,490


90,108

74,847


58,176

Workgroup



177,303

149,093


131,435


208,840

173,440


155,655

Common unallocated operating costs





(7,071 )

(228,940 )



(4,675 )

(257,058 )























Total per statements of operations


$ 430,466
$ 338,287

$ 31,268

$ 466,592
$ 348,184

$ 10,148

So, yes. Novell is making money, even in this economy. Not lots, but at least they're in the black. Their biggest growth area is Linux, which is making up for deficits in other areas of the company. Especially the sinking 'Workgroup' area. Once upon a time, "Workgroup," constituted over 90% of Novell revenue.
Revenue from our Workgroup segment decreased in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period primarily from lower combined OES and NetWare-related revenue of $13.7 million, lower services revenue of $10.5 million and lower Collaboration product revenue of $6.3 million. Invoicing for the combined OES and NetWare-related products decreased 25% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. Product invoicing for the Workgroup segment decreased 21% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.
Which is to say, companies dropping OES/NetWare constituted the large majority of the losses in the Workgroup segment. Yet that loss was almost wholly made up by gains in other areas. So yes, Novell has turned the corner.

Another thing to note in the section about Linux:
The invoicing decrease in the first six months of 2009 reflects the results of the first quarter of fiscal 2009 when we did not sign any large deals, many of which have historically been fulfilled by SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (“SLES”) certificates delivered through Microsoft.
Which is pretty clear evidence that Microsoft is driving a lot of Novell's Operating System sales these days. That's quite a reversal, and a sign that Microsoft is officially more comfortable with this Linux thing.

SLES11 will be out soon.

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For Novell has posted a preview release of SLES11. It says "RC4", which I suspect means we're within a month or so of release. This release is just in time for BrainShare 2009, were it actually happening. SLES11 would have been the major message of BS09.

The NTP protocol permits the use of crypto to authenticate clients and servers to each other, as well as between time servers. By default, SLES10 is set up to allow the v3 method of using symmetric keys, but not the v4 method that uses public/private keys. If you want to use the v4 method, this is the tip for you.

Background

By default SLES runs NTP inside a chroot jail. This can be changed from the YaST NTP config screen if you wish. This is a more secure method of running NTP. The chroot jail's root is at /var/lib/ntp/.

Additionally, ntp runs with an AppArmor profile loaded against it for added security.

Getting NTPv4 auth to work

There are 4 steps to get this to work.

  1. Copy the .rnd file to the chroot jail
  2. Run ntp-keygen
  3. Modify the AppArmor profile for /usr/sbin/ntpd to allow read access to the new files
  4. Modify the /etc/ntp.conf file to enable v4 auth.

Copy the .rnd file to the chroot jail

By default, there should be a .rnt file at /root/.rnd. If so, copy this to /var/lib/ntp/etc/.rnd. If there is no file there, one can be generated through use of openssl.

timehost:~ # openssl rand -out /var/lib/ntp/etc/.rnd 1

Run ntp-keygen

Change-directory to /var/lib/ntp/etc, and execute the following command:

timehost:~ # ntp-keygen -T

This will drop a pair of files in the directory you run it, so running it while in /var/lib/ntp/etc saves you the step of copying them to this directory.

Modify the AppArmor profile

This is done through YaST

  1. Launch YaST
  2. Go to the "Novell AppArmor" section, and enter the "Edit Profile" tool.
  3. Select "/usr/sbin/ntpd" and click Next.
  4. Click the "Add Entry" button and select File.
  5. Browse to /var/lib/ntp/etc/.rnd and click the "Read" permissions check-box, and click OK
  6. Repeat the previous two steps to add the two files created by ntp-keygen, named "ntpkey_cert_[hostname]" and "ntpkey_host_[hostname]".
    1. Note: AppArmor behavior changes between SP1 and SP2. In SP1 you can use the link files, in SP2 you need to specify the link targets.
  7. Click Done on the main Profile Dialog
  8. Agree to reload the AppArmor profile

Modify /etc/ntp.conf

The YaST tool for NTP doesn't allow for v4 configurations, so this has to be done on the command line. Open the /etc/ntp.conf file with your editor of choice, and insert the following lines before your "server" lines:

keysdir /var/lib/ntp/etc/
crypto randfile /var/lib/ntp/etc/.rnd

Then append the word "autokey" to the server and peer lines of your choice. At this point, you should be able to restart ntpd, and it will use authentication. This is a very basic NTPv4 configuration setup, but this should set the ground up for more complex configs.

Patching SLES

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Last night I attempted to patch one of our OES2 servers. This particular server is an elderly beast, a P3 1GHz machine. So I wasn't expecting anything like fastness out of it. Especially with rug.

But still, it was painful!
normandy: ~#: rug lu
Waking up ZMD...
[8 minutes later]
[list of one update, libzypp]
normandy: ~#: rug update
Resolving Dependencies....
[8 minutes later]
Install this update? (y/N)
y
[12 minutes later]
Restarting ZMD...
[8 minutes later]
normandy: ~#: rug lu
[list of updates. No need to wait 8 minutes this time.]
normandy: ~#: rug update
Resolving Dependencies...
[8 minutes later]
Dependency resolution failed for bind-util and bind-libs. libdns-whatzihoozit required by bind-util is provided by bind-libs. Please fix you hoser.
[insert swearing here]
normandy: ~#: rug in bind-util bind-libs
Resolving Dependencies....
[8 minutes later]
Install these updates? (y/N)
y
[12 minutes later]
normandy: ~#: exit

As this had taken far longer than even I was expecting, I stopped. I'll finish up tonight. As this is an OES2 server, this means SLES10-SP1. I can attest that SLES10-SP2 on identical hardware is MUCH faster. I can't wait until OES2-SP1 comes out and this dinosaur can get faster patching.

OES2 and SLES10-SP2

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Per Novell:

Updating OES2

OES2 systems should NOT be updated to SLES10 SP2 at this time!
Very true. And most especially true if you're running virtualized NetWare! The paravirtualization components in NW65SP7 are designed around the version of Xen that's in SLES10-SP1, and SP2 contains a much newer version of Xen (trying to play catch-up to VMWare means a fast dev cycle, after all). So, expect problems if you do it.

Also, the OES2 install does contain some kernel packages, such as those relating to NSS.

OES2 systems need to wait until either Novell gives the all clear for SP2 deployments on OES2-fcs, or OES2-SP1 ships. OES2-SP1 is built around SLES10-Sp2.

Problem with SLES10-SP2

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Just this morning Novell posted a new TID:

Updates catalogs missing after updating libzypp

I've heard on the grape-vine that this particular libzypp update was put into the SLES10-SP1 channel in order to prepare for SP2's release. Those fine folk out there that have turned on Auto Updating on their SLE[S|D] boxes have very probably already been bit by it. I hope Novell gets this one fixed, and posts recovery steps, soon.

SLES10 SP2 shipped

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According to Novell, SLES10 SP2 has shipped.

This means that the ongoing OES2 SP1 beta I'm a part of will be done on released code for the SLES side of it. So any bugs we find there may end up as patches on the SP2 channel.

One nice thing in the new code?

"rug refresh --clean"

This will do what I posted about a few days ago. It'll nuke the zmd database and rebuild it fresh! Niiiice! Unfortunately, a truly better version of rug won't come until "Code 11".

Being annoyed by rug?

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Rug/zmd in SLES10-SP1 is still a headache maker. Novell knows this, but I strongly suspect that we'll have to wait until SLES11 before we get anything improved. OpenSUSE now has zypper which works pretty good, and I think you can do it in SLES if you want, but I haven't tried.

One of the chief annoyances of rug is that the zmd.db file kept in /var/lib/zmd/zmd.db gets corrupted far too easily. And when that happens, rug can take HOURS to return anything. If it returns anything at all.

The fix for it is easy, stop zmd, delete the zmd.db file, restart zmd. Since I'm doing this fairly often, I've whipped up a bash script to do it for me.

nukezmd
#!/bin/sh
#
# For killing ZMD when it is clearly hung. An all too often occurance.
#

declare PIDZMD

# First get the PID of ZMD

printf "Getting PID... "
let PIDZMD=`rczmd showpid`
printf "$PIDZMD\n"
# Then unconditionally kill it

printf "Killing zmd hard... \n"
kill -9 $PIDZMD

# Remove the old, inconsistent database

printf "Nuking old database... \n"
rm /var/lib/zmd/zmd.db

# Restart ZMD, which will build a new, consistent database

printf "Restarting ZMD\n"
rczmd start
Simple, to the point. Works.

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