Data Centers

Novell's new direction

Novell is more than just Netware. The company has a new strategy focusing on new technologies. During this Guild Meeting, Ron Nutter took the time to show us what it's all about.

Novell is more than just Netware. The company has a new strategy focusing on new technologies such as its oneNet and DENIM. On June 22, Ron Nutter took us down a different path in Novell’s direction. If you couldn’t join us then, enjoy the transcript. We hope to see you at our next live Guild Meeting. You can find a schedule of Guild Meetings in your weekly TechProGuild Notes TechMail or on the Guild Meeting calendar.

Novell is more than just Netware. The company has a new strategy focusing on new technologies such as its oneNet and DENIM. On June 22, Ron Nutter took us down a different path in Novell’s direction. If you couldn’t join us then, enjoy the transcript. We hope to see you at our next live Guild Meeting. You can find a schedule of Guild Meetings in your weekly TechProGuild Notes TechMail or on the Guild Meeting calendar.

Note: TechProGuild edits Guild Meeting transcripts for clarity.

Here’s Ron
MODERATOR: Welcome to tonight's Guild Meeting. Our guest speaker tonight will be Ron Nutter. The topic: Novell's new direction. Novell has taken a beating in the trade press lately. Having not performed as well as expected, we are hearing the funeral bells ring. Of course, you and I know that the rumors of Novell's death are exaggerated. Tonight, Ron Nutter will tell us where Novell is really heading. Don't forget that tonight we'll be awarding our traditional Guild Meeting Participation prize. Tonight’s award winner will pick up a TechRepublic shirt. And now, hhhhhheeeeerrrrrreeee’s Ronnie!

RON NUTTER: Good evening, everyone.


RON NUTTER: Okay, I see our regulars are here, and it looks like a few new folks as well. The Moderators intro reminds me of a quote that goes something like "The news of my death is greatly exaggerated."

MODERATOR: Yup. I think Mark Twain said that.

RON NUTTER: It was interesting to note the differences in perception between Europe and the US. The US folks seem to be a whole lot more concerned about the announcements than those in Europe did. The general reaction I found during Brainshare Europe was "Yawn, next announcement please." The financial markets have shown a concern over Novell "changing" directions. I take this as Novell finding their best track for the long haul. In conversations I have had with several Novell higher-ups such as Drew Major, they see a time coming that Netware will become more of a box device. You are seeing the beginning stages of that now with the ICS (Internet Caching Service) product that is essentially a dedicated PC that already has a copy of Netware loaded along with the product your are purchasing.

Cool new product…come on down
RON NUTTER:The next product to come down the pike will probably be the product code-named "SSLizer," which has also been given the working name of "Secure Me." Novell is still working out how to package this new product, whether it be like the ICS product, an add-on to an existing Border Manager server, or an add-on to an existing Netware server. The concern in the financial market is the time that it will take Novell to adjust to this new way of doing business. I, for one, think Novell is making all the right moves. I don’t see what other major features Novell will be able to introduce into the base product.

JCARLISLE: Will Novell be able to recover from all the 'Brainshare' that Microsoft has in the market now? Especially with Active Directory and Win2K being all the rage now?

RON NUTTER: If you have been reading the announcements coming from Novell in the past few weeks, the oneNet and DENIM announcements are setting the stage for where Novell will be heading. Jcarlisle - That will be Novell's biggest challenge. For those of us in the Press that have followed Novell for years (approaching 10 years for me), you will know this by another name: "Stealth Marketing." Novell has had some very good products over the years, but some of them never really saw the light of day. I have been talking to several large companies that aren’t ready to jump on board with AD as of yet. For one thing, MS has no track record of any large-scale implementations of AD that I know of.

JCARLISLE: I remember the "OS/2 IS DEAD" mantra that went on in the trade press for eight years. OS/2 never died, but the perception was put on it. It seems to me like the same thing is happening to Novell.

DEWEYB: Just as Novell got out of the hardware business in the 80s, I think Novell needs to think about moving away from the OS market. Novell has a great product in NDS, but I've never been impressed with the OS.

Can I be technical for a minute?
RON NUTTER: For those on the technical side of the house, the lack of tools for troubleshooting domain problems seems to be carrying forward with a current lack of tools for AD problems. deweyb - The problem with Novell is that the OS is too reliable. I have seen Novell servers run for months on end with no intervention needed. But my Exchange server, on the other hand, can barely go a month without requiring a reboot to get it running reliably.

MIKKILUSA: Hmm must be why we run GroupWise, heehhehehehe.

RON NUTTER: deweyb - The announcements about oneNet and DENIM are positioning Novell in that direction, if you look at dirXML and LDAP and what is already on the table with being able to be the one directory service that gets all the other directories talking together.

ACCESIT_PC: The active directory really does the things more simply?

RON NUTTER: Combine that with recent announcements about MS's extensions to Kerberos that have modified it to the point that an industry-standard Kerberos device will find it almost impossible to authenticate to the MS Kerberos system

JCARLISLE: The whole focus on NDS and Novell sounds a WHOLE lot like Banyan and StreetTalk to me. Remember Vines in the 80s? That was the OS. And then Banyan focused on the directory in StreetTalk. Now there is no more Banyan. That's what seems to be happening here.

RON NUTTER: Accessit_pc - That is MS's hope that AD will make things easier. The problem is that this is MS's first foray into a directory structure. Novell has had over four years to get theirs fine tuned.

What is the Kerberos?
JCARLISLE: The Kerberos thing sounds a whole lot like MS's traditional "Extend and Embrace" (And Assimilate) that they’ve done for years.

RON NUTTER: Jcarlisle - You are right. Where I think the difference is that the networking arena has grown, and there are several different systems that need a common ground to talk. That is, in one respect, where Novell has "seen the light" and is responding to user needs and requests. The problem with Banyan was that they didn’t write their own OS, from what I remember seeing; they were just an overlay on top of UNIX.

JMACAULAY: Banyan is an MS2K integrator now.

RON NUTTER: Novell realizes that there is no one right choice for every company. The company I work for during the day, when I am not writing for TechRepublic, has a combination of Netware, NT, and Unix. We have tried to implement Novell as a first preference whenever possible. We had a major challenge recently when we went to implement a $500,000 Oracle accounting system and were told by Oracle that they wouldn’t support us on running Oracle on Netware (even though they are a Novell partner). Our other choices were NT and UNIX. We went with NT. (The Unix hardware costs were too high.)

MIKKILUSA: Good answer.

RON NUTTER: We are using NDS for NT to coordinate the user accounts between the Netware and NT systems.

JCARLISLE: Hasn’t Novell just released a version of eDirectory for Windows2000?

RON NUTTER: When we start making the change to W2K (Oracle has to support their product on that platform before we make that change), we will be looking at dirXML, LDAP, and probably eDirectory for W2K.

DEWEYB: At my previous job, we used NDS for NT, a very nice product.

RON NUTTER: Jcarlisle - I believe they have or are about to. With having been out of the country and traveling the past few weeks, I’m running a little behind on talking to folks inside the Provo and San Jose labs.

DEWEYB: In my current job, I've hitched my wagon to Linux, and I hope to see more support for the Linux platform.

ACCESIT_PC: Does Novell have a small business server for this segment?

RON NUTTER: deweyb - The support will be driven by what the customer base demands. The only problem is that ASPs will have to decide what distributions of Linux they will support their products on.

RON NUTTER: Accessit_pc - Novell has a Small Business Server v5. (Don’t know if it has rev'd to NW 5.1 as of yet.)

JCARLISLE: What is in NW5SB?

Come together…right now
ACCESIT_PC: Today, we need to combine NT, Novell, and Linux. I hope tomorrow we can buy an only box to power up the servers of my customers.

RON NUTTER: accessit_pc - Don’t know if it will ever come to that. I can remember when a company having a single server was a big deal. Now anything less than two can probably be considered a starter network. Jcarlisle - NW5SB can be considered a kitchen sink product. It contains Netscape Communicator, Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare, Novell BorderManager Proxy/Caching Services (also included in the full version of Novell BorderManager Enterprise Edition), NetObjects Fusion, and Network Associates NetShield and VirusScan.

JCARLISLE: Wow! How high does it scale?

76327711:NW5SB doesn't really scale. Single site only; max 50 users.

RON NUTTER: Jcarlisle - you can license it up to 50 users. Since each copy of NW5SB starts with a five-user license, you could have several servers, but I wouldn’t recommend having more than a couple at most.

JCARLISLE: How does it differ from Microsoft's offering for small business?

ACCESIT_PC: MS BackOffice SBS only supports 25 users.

RON NUTTER: Can’t really tell you much on that. I haven’t followed MS's version for a couple of years.

76327711: But NW5SB does give your *real* NetWare an industrial-strength network O/S, and it is an excellent value. NT SBS is the same idea as NW5SB, but it’s still NT. NW5SB is much more stable, and if it supports the applications your users need, it’s probably the better choice.

It’s time to move on
RON NUTTER: With oneNet and DENIM, Novell is indicating that people have progressed past the point of want to share files and printers and are going more to the services area. A good example of this is Novell's Net Publisher product. This was used within Novell this year for coordinating speaker presentations as they were uploaded by the speaker, checked out for editing, checked back in for review after changes, etc. Novell made a very interesting announcement a couple of weeks ago about their onDemand product.

76327711: But don't lose track of the absolute need to have file and print servers. All of these services are great, but they have to be running off of something.

ACCESIT_PC: Okay, I start with the NW5SB and grow up to a big corporate. I need to reinstall all with the Novell big server?

RON NUTTER: This allows ASPs and forward-thinking ISPs to be able to provide network services for those companies who don’t want to provide or don’t want the hassle of handling their own networks. Combine this with being able to "rent" applications as you need them instead of having to buy an application for the occasional use. 76327711 - Good point. Accessit_pc - You won’t need to reinstall but should be able to upgrade from NWSB to the full product.

76327711: If you mean multiple locations by "big corporate," then the answer is "yes." That's why the product is called NW5SB "Small Business."

JCARLISLE: Isn't File and Print getting a bit passé, however? I mean, isn’t everything application serving now?

Passé? Me?
TRENTCOOK: Do you think that certification has helped to push MS to the foreground. People say there are too many MCSEs out there, BUT if you have the support for the systems, then that is inevitably what companies will go for. Not to mention, look at the price gap it creates. A UNIX admin vs. an NT admin's pay table is much, much higher, largely due to the amount of "qualified" individuals, which again I feel has helped to push MS to the front of Novel/UNIX. Any thoughts?

RON NUTTER: 76327711 - Multiple locations or a higher user count than SB can support. Jcarlisle – Don’t think file and print is quite passé yet. Services are coming but aren’t all quite there yet.

ACCESIT_PC: Installing MS BackOffice SBS is a pain. When all is set up, something crashes the whole job.

76327711: Not in a $2-$3 million wholesale distributor business with four or five employees. This is exactly who needs "just" file and print.

RON NUTTER: Trentcook - Certification is just a part of it; MS has been able to do a better job of marketing their own products than Novell has done in the past at times.

76327711:Perception always has a lot to do with end-user acceptance, and MS is the best at selling perception.

DOUGLAS: And deception.

TRENTCOOK: Agreed, price, availability, support for broad software/hardware, etc. play a part as well, but I just think MS has every base covered when it comes to pushing their products.... which is why they dominate the market (not to say that NT is superior).

ACCESIT_PC: That’s only marketing when MS tells me NT server is easy to install, but when I try to install it, everything changes to a nightmare.

I had this horrible nightmare!
RON NUTTER: In following with the DENIM announcement, Novell also acquired a company called Juston. You can visit their Web site at This is one of the companies that has offered "on the Net" file storage done with little more than a Web browser and a Java applet. Novell realized this product and service for the potential it had.

76327711: Good point about setting up MS SBS vs. NW5SB or regular NW. You can actually set up/install an NW server on-site. With NT, that would be very difficult to do without breaking into a heavy sweat.

RON NUTTER: The same software that is running on can be implemented by an ASP as an additional service for those customers that are using that ASP's onDemand services.

RON NUTTER: Novell has also realized that network login security needs to be increased. Their announcement prior to Brainshare about NMAS (Novell Modular Authentication Service) addresses this concern from customers. You have the option of requiring some type of biometric authentication: a fingerprint or retinal scan, smart card, or hardware token must be used before access will be allowed to the network.

RON NUTTER: When you upgrade to the Enterprise Edition of NMAS, you can require multiple levels of authentication to get access. You also have the option of implementing a scaled type of access. For example, if you require that HR use a retinal scan and a fingerprint scan in order to access sensitive personnel files, but they only use a fingerprint scan, they will be able to get to the files but in a read only form.

MODERATOR: We're coming up to the top of the hour and the end of the Guild Meeting. Does anyone have any last minute questions or comments for Ron? And don’t forget to stick around for the awarding of the TechProGuild Guild Meeting Participation Prize.

ACCESIT_PC: Implement that hardware is interesting.

MIKKILUSA: Do not forget the hair sample.

RON NUTTER: With oneNet, Novell has realized that there will be multiple platforms involved in most networks today and gives the customer the freedom to implement a best-of-breed solution for their particular situation.

MIKKILUSA: It was great, Ron. Thanks for the info. Nite all.

RON NUTTER: Accessit_pc - Most of the hardware I have seen is implemented using either the serial port or with a y splitter on the keyboard connection. One company at Brainshare showed a biometric finger scanner in the form of a PCMCIA card so you can have biometric login on a portable without having to rig a biometric device and a mouse and maybe a keyboard on a single port. Thanks to everyone for attending. Be looking at the TechProGuild site for the series of articles I am working on about Novell's NMAS product and how you can implement it.
Our Guild Meetings feature topflight professionals leading discussions on interesting and valuable IT issues. You can find a schedule of Guild Meetings in your weekly TechProGuild Notes TechMail or on the Guild Meeting calendar.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox