Is it a toss up between NT and Netware or is Novell going to have to fight for dear life?
I was talking, or should I say listening, to a reseller recently about Netware and NT. This reseller is an NT convert. No wonder, he was just about to put in a system worth over a million quid running 4,000 users off an NT server.
I must admit, though, he made some very good points. For a start, what is the opportunity with Netware 4? You can upgrade users from 3.1x, but that's about it. With NT there is major upheaval, which is no good for the customer in the short term, but it's very good for the reseller. A new system, new specifications, some new boxes, upgraded applications, implementation, training, support - there are loads of possibilities.
Is it the best thing for the user? Well it depends how you look at it.
If you are looking at legacy, and all systems have one, then it will be expensive and the users might not like it. Even worse, it might not work - if it ain't broke don't fix it.
In most cases, the thing that ain't broke and doesn't need fixing is Netware. But just where is Netware going? What happens after Netware 4?
Netware 5, one would assume. But what do you know about that now? Novell has yet to make clear exactly where it is heading with its operating systems.
There's the Smart Global Network, a lovely concept. But how does it solve the problems that users have on the ground, such as how do we get more power and bandwidth, and how do we control all that performance when we do get it?
The future in the data centre, and to some extent on the network, is in MP systems. Netware has not yet proved itself on MP systems, but, NT, according to this reseller, has shown its colours and looks good. More scalability is promised in the near future.
'Wait,' I said, 'aren't you forgetting Novell's secret weapon, NDS?' 'No,' he said, 'NDS is not the cure-all for Novell's woes. NDS is all well and good where there are multiple servers and you need a way of finding your way around, but if there is only one server, what do you need a clever directory for?'
But there will be multiple servers on many installations, and Microsoft is already making the right sort of noises about a directory system of some kind. It's bound to come up with one and then Novell's case will start to look thin in the medium term, especially if you come back to that word, opportunity.
With NT, we're all well aware that Microsoft is going to provide the next step - an upgrade at the client/server - and there will be all sorts of extras and add-ons for the system. We also know that applications support will arrive pretty quickly after the release of Windows 97.
It seems to me that Novell's only salvation, lies in Groupwise and there is every reason to be optimistic on that count. In demonstration against Notes 4 and Exchange, I think that Groupwise comes out on top.
My ebullient reseller agreed Groupwise is looking good and, if what Novell says is true, it's selling well too. It seems that Groupwise might make it into many Novell installations as the stock choice for messaging. If it does, Novell will buy itself some more time.
Groupwise 5 is a slick and elegant-looking system. It's tied neatly into NDS. It does not need a dedicated server, as Netware 4 does the job.
So, if you dump your Netware server and you dump your groupware platform this is a neat way of tying in users, but users are not stupid. They know a lobster pot when they see one and may be put off if Novell tries to coax them too far into its net. Novell must be careful, as users may see NT as a more open system.
Those who invest in Groupwise now are unlikely to dump it in six months and therefore, they'll need to hang on to their Netware servers. While they are waiting, they'll resist a move to NT and will look at anything new that comes out of Novell with an open mind.
But Exchange is only at version 1.1. If it gets better before Novell's operating system strategy becomes much clearer, that could be the end of the contest. If Novell can deliver real scalability in Netware, Groupwise might just give it enough time to hold on to the users and the challenge of NT. But right now, you get no prizes for guessing which company my reseller friend is putting his money on. Whatever Novell does next, it needs to be good.
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