Don't get stuck up Novell's Green River without

The Rat has been busy sniffing out the goings-on at Novell Inc. Having gnawed down his
milk teeth on NetWare IPX packets, he has something of a sentimental streak for Ray
Noorda's old company.


But the Rat keeps thinking of an old hymn that goes, ""He's not dead, he's
only sleeping.


"Novellites insist that 20-year-old Novell is as vital as any start-up company. Of
course, that's also what they say at the company formerly known as Sperry-Rand, er,
Burroughs, er, Unisys, er [el1] what is it now?


Novell NetWare has really pushed the envelope on squandering market momentum. Unlike
IBM's OS/2 and OS/2 LAN Server, it at least had some momentum. Now chairman
Frankenberg is learning that file- and print-server success doesn't necessarily translate
into client-server success.


Novell has cleared out the attic a bit, getting rid of clutter (and overhead) by
encouraging employees to start their own companies or by selling products outright, like
the Tuxedo transaction processing monitor.


The Rat fondly recalls his first struggles with RConsole and other NetWare utilities.
Ah, the hours he spent troubleshooting pesky NetWare Loadable Modules, running VRepair and
scratching his head figuring out SPX. He remembers them like they were last week. Maybe
they were last week.


Whenever the Wired One needs a masochistic thrill, he does an installation 20of Novell
LAN Workplace TCP/IP.


Novell now is working to reverse its streak of negative press by putting beta copies of
its new network operating system, code-named Green River, out for scrutiny. The Rat hasn't
been able to get his fore claws on a beta yet, and he has promised to leave rumor
generation about code quality to that untrustworthy feline at another publication.


But the way Novell has treated its faithful is beginning to bother the Rat. Most
government file servers, at last check, were still NetWare machines, although NetWare
sales have gone pancake-flat, and Novell has in fact taken back some customers from the
company's resellers.


While Novell isn't too badly off financially after sending WordPerfect and its other
office apps, except for GroupWise, north of the border to Corel Corp., Green River will
have to be a raging torrent of success to make government technology managers feel warm
and fuzzy about NetWare's future.


Of course, it could be worse--Novell could be acquired by IBM. Cambridge, Mass., is
filling up with new start-ups like Brainstorm Technologies, a Notes development shop
started by former Lotusheads. Judging by the rate of defections from the former
independent state of Lotus Development Corp., life under IBM chairman Lou Gerstner is not
appealing.


Or maybe it's just the corporate backbiting. Tales of strained domesticity between
Lotus and IBM make it sound less like a marriage and more like white slavery, smirks the
Rat. Perhaps that explains the delay in getting an OS/2 version of the latest Lotus
SmartSuite out the door, or the sluglike speed with which the Windows 95 version of Lotus
1-2-3 moves toward its ship date.


Novell could yet pull itself out of the doldrums. Look at Borland International. The
Rat was amazed to hear that the Scotts Valley, Calif., regime is back in the acquisition
game, buying Distributed Computing Environment middleware vendor Open Environment Corp.


Maybe Borland's pagodalike offices will again teem with life. Maybe Borland president
Gary Wetzel will start a clinic to help companies recover from dramatic downsizing. He
could call it the Phillipe Kahn Clinic for Corporate Gourmandism.


"There is life after corporate stomach-stapling," muses the Rat.


With that in mind, he returns to his Net sniffer and his hunt for a gibbering network
card, vowing to go on a diet before he has to do radical corporeal downsizing himself. The
Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in
cyberspace.



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