Attachmate buying Novell surprises me less than it did many of the folks I follow on Twitter. Novell's main assets are SUSE Linux, the ZENworks system management suite and the eDirectory technology. ZENworks fits with Attachmate's NetIQ group and SUSE can stand on its own. For the rest Attachmate is well known for maximizing their license income from products, like TN3270 clients, with declining new license revenue going so far as to sue state governments and police forces for under buying licenses.
As a guy who once made his living by being the world's greatest expert in making Windows 3.x work with NetWare, it's sad that Novell's coming to such an ignominious end. Of course over the years Novell made some astounding blunders.
The biggest of course was when Ray Noorda decided that he should take on Microsoft on all fronts by buying WordPerfect to challenge Microsoft Office. Not only did that mean taking on Microsoft's cash cow, but WordPerfect itself was already on the decline as Windows took over from DOS and WordPerfect for Windows was late and frankly not so good.
In fact most of Novell's missteps came from delusions of grandeur and a failure to, as Johnny Mercer's old song said "Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive". NetWare was a highly optimized and, for its time, high performance file server operating system with an outstanding reputation for reliability. NetWare servers routinely ran for years without reboots as the Netware Loadable Module (NLM) architecture allowed patching on the fly where other OSes (Windows) needed, and still needs, to reboot.