Novell banks on Green River to succeed NetWare, take on NT
- By Bill Murray
- Jul 29, 1996
Gregory Reade is the kind of systems decision-maker whose choices will determine
whether Green River--Novell Inc.'s NetWare 4.1 successor, due in September--will keep
Novell afloat in the networking software market.
And Reade has decided to hedge his bets in upgrading the 250-user NetWare LAN he
administers at Federal Reserve Board headquarters in Washington. He's moving the LAN users
to Microsoft Windows NT Workstation.
"We're moving our desktops to NT 4.0 because the interface and enhancements will
help, [but] we are staying with Novell" for the network operating system, Reade said,
because the board "is integrated with banks, and sharing information is very
important. Microsoft's domain system doesn't work well"' in fulfilling directory
NetWare is in a fight for its life, faced with a strong challenge from Windows NT 3.51.
In the federal marketplace, NetWare's installed base grew from 60 percent to 64.5
percent over the last year, while Windows NT's share dropped from 39 percent to 32
percent, according to an exclusive Government Computer News survey.
But federal buyers' plans may really tell the story. Last year 54 percent planned to
add Windows NT LANs and 30 percent planned to buy NetWare LANs. This year, that gap has
widened. Now 61.5 percent of survey respondents say they plan to add NT and only 24
percent plan to buy NetWare.
"From an architectural standpoint, Microsoft has a vision of what it wants to be
as the hardware improves," but Novell "hasn't enunciated a vision," said
Chris Latocq, an analyst with Dataquest Inc. in San Jose, Calif.
Top server vendors like Compaq Computer Corp. have been heavily promoting upgrades to
NT 4.0 Server, reportedly ready for release this month, while industry leaders like
Digital Equipment Corp. and Oracle Corp. devote their development resources to NT, not
Novell isn't giving up. A beta version of Green River has been in testing since May.
Novell's installed base of 50 million users look to Green River to build on Netware's
already-strong file, print and directory services as well as improve its applications and
Internet features--both NT strong points.
"NetWare is a much stronger network operating system," said Jon Oltsik, an
analyst with Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "People who have it are
staying with it. But the Internet, intranet and server applications are key areas where
Novell needs improvement."
Oltsik pointed to Netscape Communications Corp. as another important competitor besides
Microsoft. Novell, he said, "could lose out to Netscape, which is doing work in many
of Novell's areas," including groupware and messaging.
Even an NT advocate conceded that neither Novell nor Microsoft appears ready to provide
an across-the-board answer. "The NetWare file and print services are good, but
server-based stuff--such as Microsoft Back Office-- gives NT an advantage," said
Charles S. Kelly, a GCN columnist and president of the Advanced Systems Users Group in
Kelly, who has estimated that as much as 45 percent of the group's 5,000 members work
for the government, said NT-NetWare interoperability remains an important issue. "The
users want something transparent, they don't care about the operating system," he
However, Microsoft and Novell for years have pointed fingers, each contending that the
other company bears responsibility for any interoperability problems.
Novell appears isolated in the industry amid the hoopla over the NT 4.0 upgrade, but
the company made an important alliance this spring. In late March, Novell agreed to
license Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java technology for use with NetWare. This year, Novell
will embed the Java Virtual Machine into NetWare so its third-party software developers
can create Java applications for NetWare LANs.
A controversial study released in June by International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass.,
claims that NetWare 4.1 servers outsold NT servers in the first quarter of 1996. But
Novell commissioned the study, and Microsoft rebutted it, claiming that NT file servers,
application servers and mixed-use servers outsold NetWare 4.x in the first quarter, by
135,000 to 109,000 licenses.
However, Glenn Ricart, Novell's chief technology officer, has said Microsoft counts NT
workstation as well as server licenses, whereas Novell counts only servers [GCN,
July 8, Page 28].