While most companies are scrambling to attach “cloud” to any product they can, Novell is turning out the lights on its Vibe Cloud service. Instead, the company plans to focus on its Vibe OnPrem hosted solution, and is giving customers until September 30 to land. While bad news for the small group using Vibe Cloud, it might be a good policy for making existing Novell customers happier.

Customers might be confused about the need to shutter the Vibe Cloud service, since Novell plans to continue OnPrem development. It’s less confusing once you realize that the two products bearing the Vibe name are actually two very different products with different feature sets. The Vibe Cloud product was built using the Google Wave Federation Protocol, while Vibe OnPrem was based on Novell’s Teaming platform that the company picked up from SiteScape.

Same name, but two radically different products, and Vibe OnPrem had far more uptake among Novell customers. Wendy Steinle, director of product marketing for Novell, declined to give exact numbers but says OnPrem has “somewhere around two million seats” while Vibe Cloud is “somewhere between 16,000 and 17,000 users.” Instead of pursuing two different products, Steinle says that Attachmate decided it was important to focus and make the Novell base happy.

It probably won’t make the Cloud customers too happy, though. The Cloud features inherited from Google Wave, such as real-time co-editing of documents and message stream aren’t present in OnPrem – and won’t be until well into 2012, long after Cloud dissipates on September 30. Steinle says the OnPrem roadmap does include some of the features in the “Firestone” release targeted for October, and “the bulk” should turn up in the Spring release for 2012. Existing OnPrem customers will get these features as part of the regular maintenance for the product. If you’ve been using Novell Cloud and want to make the switch, it will run $81 per user with a maintenance fee of 25% of the license annually. Steinle says that Novell has no automated migration from Cloud to OnPrem, but that Novell is “helping people harvest their own data out of Vibe Cloud to a certain degree.”

Though it may be disruptive to some users, this looks like a smart move on Novell’s part. With uptake less than 20,000 seats on Cloud it doesn’t make sense to split engineering efforts. Novell’s existing customers have had a rocky road the last few years while the company’s focus was split between legacy products and the SUSE business that Attachmate has put into its own unit. The road to acquisition was probably no picnic either. Buckling down and showing focus to adopted products may be the best strategy for Novell.

Disclaimer: I worked for Novell from February 2008 through the end of January 2010, and worked with some of the team from Kablink, the open source component of Teaming. I didn’t have any involvement with Novell Vibe Cloud, and had left well before Attachmate made a bid to acquire the company.