It was no accident that Novell chose the bleak subterranean surroundings of the Cabinet War Rooms for a special pre-Christmas briefing on how it saw the market developing in 1997. ?If 1996 was the year when the intranet commanded the media space, then 1997 will be the year when the universal directory dominates,? predicts the company?s UK chief, Tom Schuster. ?As networks become more tightly integrated with the Internet and Wans, efficient global directory services become essential.? Few would quibble with the latter statement. But Novell?s insistence that 1997 will see its own technology at the heart of this fast exploding intranet market met with a more sceptical reception. Novell grandly asserted: ?Novell Directory Services (NDS) and Intranetware will emerge as key enabling technologies for this growth? ? a contention that many may find hard to swallow, particularly Novell?s arch-adversary on this issue, Netscape. In fact, as the setting for Schuster?s inspirational address indicated, Novell is in the thick of a propaganda war with Netscape, and that means deploying a lot of strategic skills if it is going to survive. One almost expected Schuster to produce a cigar, puff on it and intone: ?We will fight them on the features.? But he refrained from striking the pose. The problem for Novell is that many big corporates are writing it out of their intranet plans altogether. A survey of Fortune 1000 IT executives by Forrester Research late last year revealed that only 12 per cent saw Novell featuring in their Internet/ intranet plans, while 72 per cent were convinced it would have no part at all. Although this was a small sample, it indicates that Novell?s desperate attempts to carve out a place for itself in the new order of the Internet/intranet is not proving entirely convincing. At the core of Novell?s dilemma is widespread scepticism about its future, following the U-turn it made last year by reinventing Netware as Intranetware. A once fiercely proprietorial company with an iron grip on the networking market, Novell now claims to be embracing the open standards on which the Internet/intranet world is being constructed. People have woken up to the fact that Novell is desperately casting around for a central role in these emerging markets, and at the same time failing to map out a strategic plan for its products that doesn?t centre on begging others to adopt its core technologies. The self-centred lord of the manor now finds itself depending on the kindness of others if it is to have a future. Like Microsoft, Novell recognises it needs to get its own technologies out there if it is to have an advantage over its intranet rivals. While Microsoft is pushing Active X, Internet Explorer and J++, Novell is trying to get NDS accepted. In fact, like Internet Explorer and Active X, Novell is giving it away. It is distributing the NDS source code for free and is attempting to get Sun to include Java class versions of NDS in its Foundation Classes. Schuster says the battleplan is based on strategies adopted by its arch-rival. ?Our objective in 1997 is to proliferate NDS globally across platforms. We?ll do that by taking a leaf out of Netscape?s book ? we?re giving it away to anyone who wants it.? He says few people have made money out of the Internet yet. ?But the proliferation of NDS will bring in money in the long-run.? Novell had signed agreements, or came close to signing agreements, with companies such as Sun, Hewlett Packard and SCO to have NDS incorporated into their operating systems. Sun also figured in its plans to get Novell?s directory services embedded into the core foundation classes for Java ? which would be a considerable boost for NDS. At the briefing, Novell UK director of technology Dominic Storey said the company has completed a set of NDS class libraries for Java and ?handed these back to Sun?. When asked about their current status, he insisted: ?Sun will incorporate them in its Foundation Classes.? A Javasoft representative later refused to confirm whether Novell?s NDS had achieved such a status saying: ?We?re not making any public statements on Novell?s position at present.? It is highly unlikely that Sun would move towards such an accommodation simply because it would jeopardise its relationship with Netscape, its first Java licensee and oldest Internet partner. Imminent technologies from Netscape, particularly Com-municator and Constellation, could set the pace in the intranet market. But the key to developing this market is the adoption of a directory standard because communications between selected individuals and among defined groups is the key to the intranet. On this Novell and Netscape agree. Schuster quoted approvingly a prediction of Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale that by 2000 the intranet will be a $10 billion market ? far eclipsing the current network market which stood at roughly $1.35 billion in 1995. ?I estimate the networking market will double from $2 billion to $4 billion in that timescale and we will continue to dominate that market.? ?But that extra $6 billion on top of that,? he says, ?that?s not operating system sales. Messaging on the Internet and intranet is the rest of that stack. About 75 per cent of our customers say that enterprise-wide messaging is now mission-critical.? In other words, a gigantic cherry that Novell ignores at its peril. Public pronouncements from Netscape and Novell indicate they are in broad agreement on this. Jim Barksdale said at Comdex: ?We are entering the third wave of the Internet where email and groupware are key elements of computing. ?While the first waves of the Internet focused on users being able to find information, the mark of this third wave is that information finds the user. Our new products will have the intelligence to help you focus on the information you care about.? That means Netscape?s future products have got Novell, Lotus and Microsoft firmly in their sights. Communicator will aim at the Notes and groupware market, but Constellation is the one that has the potential to seriously set the corporates alight. Constellation is a forward-looking corporate broadcasting mechanism that allows IT managers to broadcast applications and information across corporate intranets to employees worldwide. The key technology it requires, like the email and groupware products in Netscape?s portfolio, is a directory service. They are the key to the future and Novell is right to say that 1997 is the year of the directory. But there is another contender ? Netscape has thrown down the gauntlet. It makes no bones of the fact that its key products will be based on the light-weight directory access protocol (LDAP) which is an open Internet standard that has made a lot of headway. In a recent white paper, Netscape argued: ?Without a directory architecture that enables users to find each other easily, electronic communication cannot live up to its full potential. ?The virtues of a truly open directory architecture are sorely missed inside corporations where user information is fragmented in pockets of proprietary technology. On the back end, MIS managers must struggle to maintain employee information across a myriad of incompatible systems.? Netscape?s target is primarily Novell?s proprietary NDS technology. The white paper states: ?Netscape has developed an open strategy for enabling scalable, secure, multivendor directory services for intranets and the Internet. [There will be] no vendor lock-in; in other words, no proprietary ownership or control of the directory protocols. Free reference implementation of directory protocols should be available in order to maximise competition.? That Novell sees Netscape as a serious threat is revealed in nearly all it is attempting to do. Netscape has forced it to give away its core proprietary NDS technology in the hope that its Unix-based competitors will adopt it and dig it out of a hole. There?s also a lot of talk about embracing open standards and making NDS open by releasing NDS access APIs to an ?Internet standards body?. But NDS? adoption would still give Novell an advantage. ?Some people are saying that we?re giving away the crown jewels,? admits Storey, ?but that is not quite true. Royalty-free NDS is our olive branch to the industry. The opportunity for value-added services and technologies is huge, once the foundations are out there.? Will the industry swallow that? The problem is that Novell learn a lesson that Microsoft seems to have learned with Internet Explorer: when you give something away, people value it less. Users start asking what the hidden agenda is, and in both Microsoft?s and Novell?s case, the agenda seems to be all about tying people into their technologies in order to give themselves a headstart. The market may decide to reject those technologies and those naked agendas. But the most interesting sign of all, that Novell is truly rattled by Netscape and staring defeat in the jaws, is the decision to build a full-feature LDAP server and give that away as well. ?Who needs to pay $1,000 for a Netscape Suitespot server when we?re giving ours away for free?? observes Storey. Whether this will hurt Netscape remains to be seen. Microsoft still finds that companies are prepared to pay for Navigator, even though they can have any number of copies of Internet Explorer for free. But why should Novell be giving away a server that?s worth $1,000, other than through spite or a desperate desire to score at least one small hit in the battle with Netscape? What are Novell?s resellers and business partners to make of a strategy that involves giving away server technologies? Resellers can?t make money out of that. In some respects, desperate marketing antics like this prove the current dire straits the company perceives itself to be in. But there is one glimmer of hope on the horizon. Novell has a huge installed base. Recent Novell estimates suggest that NDS is the number one directory service in terms of installed base with 18 million users. Netware has 60 million users while the Groupwise messaging product has seven million users. That?s a formidable base of users, as well as a well- organised channel reaching out to those users. It?s precisely what Netscape, and to a lesser extent Sun, lacks ? a market reach that embraces most of the corporate market. At some point Netscape or Sun may decide to buy up Novell?s market share and its channels rather than continuing their current strategy of organically growing their base. Another possibility is that Microsoft and Novell may come to some arrangement. A coming together of Microsoft and Novell could create enough momentum to spin the Internet?s open standards into disarray. Yet the latter seems unlikely. The message that Novell is sending out to the world is that it has whole-heartedly embraced open standards. This may simply be a strategic ploy to encourage other companies to embrace NDS, but it appears to be genuine all the same. Microsoft has only begrudgingly accepted openness on the Active X front through sheer necessity. But Novell?s biggest theme is that it recognises the market wants more openness and competition. Schuster quotes from a Forrester Research report on the future of the intranet. ?By 2000 the intranet will grow far beyond a TCP/IP network that just supports the Web. It will have five core standards-based services ? directory, email, file, print and network management ? that will overshadow proprietary Nos solutions.? He adds: ?There is no doubt corporate networks will become based on open standards.? Novell has woken up to the realities of the intranet and is fighting hard for its future. But it?s going to be a tough battle, and NDS is not a surefire bet as the directory standard.
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