A behind-the-scenes look at the rise and eventual plateauing of Novell, one of the stars of the microcomputing era.
White presents a readable account of how this unusual company, largely run by Mormons from a small town in Utah, invented the local area network (LAN) and grew into a worldwide information-technology powerhouse. There are little-known facts, such as the odd way the company got its name. The wife of one of the founders thought the name should be “Novell.” Her husband thought it meant “new” in French, but the other founder said then it should correctly be spelled “nouveau” or “nouvelle.” Interestingly, they both decided to leave it as is. There is the back story about how the company created its flagship product, NetWare. Management’s dissatisfaction with its slow-selling terminal computer and desire to split a hard disk among several terminal computer units led to the development of a local area network, and Novell created the software to support it. There is political intrigue as Craig Burton and Judith Clarke, two of the company’s top leaders, leave the company after learning of a “management review” by Novell president Ray Noorda, who names another long-time employee as his successor. White does a fine job relating the ups and downs of a company beset by the problems typical of a high-growth, high-tech startup going through a tumultuous evolution driven by changes in technology and management mishaps. The book is well-written and entertaining, keeping the reader engaged in the story of Novell. However, this is very old news, presenting a historical perspective on a single company that may be too narrow and outdated for most readers. The book is likely to interest students of the early days of the personal computer, or information-technology junkies who are curious about how Novell got its start. But for the average reader, the work may come across as a nostalgic look back that is of limited interest.
An entertaining read but 20 years too late.