Novell lays out road map

Novell is setting out to quell any remaining rumors surrounding NetWare's future by plotting a course that will position it as more of a foundation platform and building block of Novell's overall strategy.

With the introduction earlier this year of Novell's Net services software focus, some Novell users were left wondering where -- or if -- NetWare would fit in to the new strategy. The company's May reorganization amid financial questions may not have been much reassurance. But Jim Tanner, director of NetWare product management for Novell, in Provo, Utah, said NetWare will "definitely not" be abandoned anytime soon.

Nevertheless, NetWare will likely become a less-critical element of Novell's strategy, said Al Gillen, research manager for systems software at IDC, in Framingham, Mass., despite the fact that NetWare sales form a good chunk of company revenues. While NetWare will not be "put out to pasture," he said, the company must now focus on its revenue source of the future: Net services software.

"[Novell] needs to be perceived by customers as being a viable, long-term player which is going to be growing in the market," Gillen said. "If Novell cannot grow, it will be increasingly less relevant, and that will cause users to lose confidence, and certainly will make it hard to attract new customers.

It's a tough situation to be in."

With the industry changing, NetWare will be presented as less of a NOS and more of an SOE (server operating environment) encompassing its traditional file and print background as well as emphasizing stability and storage. Tanner feels these features will be vital to attracting the ASP (application service provider) market and other new customers.

"Sexy is not going to cut it [with ASPs] -- you have to be real solid," said Tanner, adding that Novell "has been good at this; we just forgot to tell anyone. That's what we have to do now."Novell will be pushing Novell Storage Services (NSS), which pulls client protocols down to the server level so a user can get access to information without necessarily having a Novell client, and WebDAV, which provides support at the server level to access and store files across a network via the Web.

Both of these technologies target increasingly mobile end-users, who need to access data at any time regardless of location, Tanner said.

"NetWare will become the layer by which all back-end data can be consolidated and offered up to the end-user in a unified view," he said, noting that Novell is also developing more than 20 different "deployment guides" that can turn NetWare servers into specialized, easily deployed servers that can build out a network in a modular fashion.

Other than a series of enhancement packs, the next major NetWare releases will be the 64-bit "Modesto" and a version of NetWare code-named "Six Pack." Six Pack will multiprocessor-enable NetWare's core networking services, including file and print services, NSS, NDS 8, and Novell's Java Virtual Machine, which enters open beta about December and is scheduled to ship in mid-2001.

Modesto is a new NetWare architecture built for Intel's 64-bit Itanium platform. A Modesto Appliance Kit is expected in early-2001, following Itanium's release, with a full boxed version due next summer.

"We need to go after new customers through a service sell, not a technical sell," Tanner said.

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