Can NetWare users keep the faith?

Never has Novell user loyalty been more severely tested.

I received a call from a Novell NetWare user who was undecided about whether to upgrading his company's server to Microsoft's Windows NT. Like most users, although they are happy with NetWare, they get caught up in the NT hype and popularity. Being impaled on the horns of NOS (network operating systems) dilemma is probably a familiar experience that many Novell users are going through.

With NetWare's most threatening competitor, Microsoft's Windows NT, expected to have growth rates of 50 per cent -- how long can Novell maintain NetWare's current 50 per cent marketshare of PC servers operating systems?

Novell's network operating system NetWare is thriving and should continue to experience growth rates of 12 per cent in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan), according to preliminary estimates by International Data Corp (IDC).

There is understandably some reticence to forsake the familiarity and reliability of NetWare. The caller's reluctance to give up NetWare was because the maintenance of a NetWare server was as easy as setting up the NOS and leaving it to run on its own.

"I hear from others that NT can be problematic and (can) hang sometimes," the caller said.

But my guess, considering the fact that NT 5.0 will not be out until late 1999 and that NT 4.0 may not be robust enough to replace NetWare's enterprise-level file, print and management duties, is a temporary hitch in the grand scheme of mass migration to NT.

What has proven interesting is the fact that Novell is changing tack and employing strategies to coexist with NT, by providing NT-complementary products, like Novell Directory Services (NDS) for NT.

Novell, five years on, may evolve into a radically different organisation, with new Novell products like Novell Directory Services for NT, BorderManager and the yet-to-be released ZENWorks, an NDS-enabled desktop management suite.

Who knows, NetWare users may still be able to keep the faith, as well as become Microsoft followers, like Novell already is.

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