It's one thing to arrive fashionably late for a party, but it's quite another to show up after most of the guests have gone home. That pretty much sums up the situation with NetWare 5 from Novell and Windows NT 5.0 from Microsoft.
For Novell, the delivery of this version represents redemption. After dragging its heels on IP support for years, the company finally embraces native IP support, which for the first time will turn NetWare into a network operating system that can really span wide area networks.
And although Novell is significantly late with this release, they still delivered it in time for a good portion of their customers to adopt it before the year-2000 crisis consumes all of their available manpower. Microsoft, on the other hand, will be lucky to get any significant adoption of NT 5.0 before 2001.
This means that for the foreseeable future, we can expect to see heterogeneous, multitier enterprise computing architectures dominating the IT landscape. NetWare will continue to be the dominant provider of file and print services, Unix and mainframe systems will continue to host most of the data, and NT 4.0 will be used as the primary platform for application servers that need low- to medium-range scalability.
The bad news for Redmond is that the company's Uber-NT vision overall, also known as Microsoft's Digital Nervous System, is pretty much kaput without a credible NT 5.0 story to back it up. And once more, by the time Microsoft gets around to delivering NT 5.0, most IT shops will be pretty comfortable with multitier computing architectures. So the promise of a homogenous NT infrastructure won't seem quite as compelling in 2001.
So the question is, has Microsoft been humbled enough to start doing the right thing to support IT diversity, or is the company merely taking a more practical approach with tools such as Visual Studio 6.0 as it waits for the next available opportunity in the new millennium?