Rat speaks his mind on mental state of ardent Novell faithful in Utah

Packet Rat
R. Fink





Rat speaks his mind on mental state of ardent Novell faithful in Utah


Once again it was time for the Rat to live high on the old per diem, and where better
than Salt Lake City?


Well, maybe there are better places, but the cyberrodent had skipped Novell Inc.’s
annual BrainShare conference for too many years.


NetWare has always been dear to his heart. Didn’t the ratlings cut their teeth on
old NetWare installation diskettes? Isn’t the Rat’s broken desk still propped up
by ancient study guides from his Certified NetWare Engineer exam? But everyone knows what
rats do on sinking ships.


Nowadays,
the trim of Novell’s ship of commerce seems to be improving, and it may even be
building up some steam. Even so, the Rat prepared to hop on a fast pipe to Utah without
expecting to find many brains to share at BrainShare.


“Maybe I should bring extra,” the Rat mused, “just in case there’s
not enough to go around.”


Ray Noorda’s old shop does have some mental energy left, though. NetWare 5 is a
tempting package. The Rat hears that Novell has several other new things up its
sleeve—for instance, an Internet appliance developed jointly with Compaq Computer
Corp. and using Digital Me privacy protection software.


Novell has bought into Java—no surprise considering that former Sunster Eric
Schmidt is running the store in Orem, Utah, these days.


But it appears that some of Novell’s customers have dug in their heels and are
refusing to go gently to NetWare 5. That’s the only explanation the Rat can come up
with for NetWare 4.2, a continuation of the classic network operating system.


“You just cannot drag some folks away from bindery emulation,” the Rat
reflects.


So, as Schmidt tries to prod the Novell faithful into the brave new world of Java,
Internet solutions and standards-based networking, the cyberrodent wonders whether the
customer base will hang on like grim death to what it already has—a common fate for
popular legacy products.


Lotus Development Corp. faced the same thing with cc:Mail as it tried—and is still
trying—to corral users for Notes and Domino. Santa Cruz Operation Inc. has the same
situation with its OpenServer Unix line, as it throws development efforts behind UnixWare.


Novell has foot-draggers not only among GroupWise 4.x and WordPerfect Office users, but
also among a vast array of other users, including some in the government who still run
NetWare 2.x. That’s right. Not 4.x, not 3.x, but 2.x. Talk about legacies.


Novell has succeeded to some degree in winning the enterprise directory war in terms of
mind share—not too hard a task, considering that Microsoft Corp. still has not
fielded the first generation of its Active Directory. But Novell lacks the manic
community of developers that Microsoft has bought and paid for. Novell and its ally,
Netscape Communications Corp., need to face up to the fact that it’s not just a
two-horse race with Microsoft anymore.


“Sure, NetWare 5 comes with Oracle8 and Netscape’s FastTrack Web
server,” mutters the Rat, “but so what?”


He’s managing to do with Linux almost everything he used to do with his boxes
under NetWare. In fact, they’re pretty much the same old boxes that used to run
NetWare 3.x, but they’re on the bleeding edge because they run Linux now.  


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.


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