Microsoft backs away from tech support of NDS for NT

The areas of tech support affected are in NT user directory and security services, NT
Server product managers said. Both areas are essential for use of NT's strong password
option and for replication between NT domain controllers.

Microsoft recently announced the tech support limitations through a market bulletin
circulated to the company's field sales force. In the bulletin, the NT Server product team
warned users that installing Novell Directory Services for Windows NT, a product Novell
began shipping a month ago, would make NT servers insecure and potentially less reliable.

Navy systems engineer Peter Cruikshank said the Microsoft warning might scare some
people away from Novell's new directory software, but not him. Cruikshank works at the
Space and Naval Warfare Center in San Diego, which operates servers running both Microsoft
and Novell network programs.

NDS for NT performs several enterprise network administration functions that the
current NT Server doesn't provide.

Cruikshank said he has installed and tested NDS for NT. "It does a lot of things
we need right now," he said. "I don't see bad things happening in what testing
I've done."

Novell officials last week criticized Microsoft's bulletin on NDS for NT, calling it
completely false and grossly misleading.

"This definitely shows that Microsoft is pretty nervous about NDS for NT,"
said Michael Simpson, Novell's director of marketing for network services. "It's
resorting to scare tactics and desperate measures to try and get people not to evaluate
the product."

Simpson recalled a similar response from Microsoft a year ago when Novell released its
IntranetWare Client for Windows NT with Workstation Manager, an interoperability program
for Windows NT desktop computers and Novell IntranetWare servers.

Simpson said Microsoft had told some of its largest customers it would no longer
support them if they used Novell Workstation Manager. Eventually Microsoft recanted, he

"I don't know of a single customer threatened by Microsoft that didn't go ahead
and deploy our product," Simpson said.

Simpson and other industry observers said they recall nothing like the Microsoft
response to Novell in cases where other companies such as Citrix Systems Inc. of Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., have released Citrix WinFrame and other products that replace or change
portions of the NT Server operating system.

Another competitor's product, StreetTalk for NT from Banyan Systems Inc. of
Westborough, Mass., performs an integration function similar to Novell's NDS for NT.
Microsoft provides unlimited technical support to NT users running StreetTalk for NT.

That's because Banyan's StreetTalk for NT isn't "ripping out and replacing"
key parts of Windows NT security, said Microsoft senior engineer Sean Murphy.

Large deployments of NDS for NT in the government will take several months, said
Richard Carlson, Novell's director of major market operations. In the meantime, he said,
federal users will have to judge the conflicting claims and counterclaims for themselves.

"Actually, what Microsoft is saying is true," Carlson said, in that NT's C2
security is breached whenever the NT operating system is put onto a computer network. That
makes Microsoft's claim that the NDS software breaks NT's trusted computing base
irrelevant, he said.

Novell officials said NDS for NT in fact leaves Microsoft's security infrastructure
intact and replaces only the database for security information.

But Microsoft sees it differently, insisting that NDS for NT users simply can't expect
the same level of hot-fix support for security- or directory-related problems they can get
for other NT tech support problems.

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