Overtightening Novell's Nuts

FRAMINGHAM (03/13/2000) - This week I have to start off with feedback from one Steve "The Rebate King" Manos regarding my column, "Scanning an Internet-style deal." Manos wrote to brag that he had done even better buying a scanner than I did: "I purchased this scanner from Staples Inc. at an even better rate [than] that advertised. Staples has a low price guarantee of which I took advantage.

Best Buy had the same scanner for sale for $99.95, so I had Staples match Best Buy's advertised price so I could get the scanner and actually come out $0.05 ahead of the game. Of course, I had to pay postage to mail in the rebate and sales tax, but not a bad deal for around $8.00."

Wow! I am seriously impressed. Next, responding to last week's column, "Nut behind the support call," reader Paul Wilding commented: "I believe your reference to NBW alludes to the common automotive condition caused by a loose nut; the one holding the steering wheel! In the computer support lexicon many conditions are attributed to a PEBCAK error. Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard."

And reader Scott Hall wrote: "We call it a 'loose nut behind the keyboard.'

Amazingly enough, some people look back there to see if they can tighten it."

So, in the spirit of deals and the need for nut tightening, let's talk about choosing network operating systems (NOS). In my latest incarnation as founder and chief technical officer for Brand3 Inc. (www.brand3.com), a desktop marketing start-up incorporated in November 1999, I found the need to start building IS infrastructure in double-quick time.

My IS manager, an extremely capable gentleman named Aaron, has a broad range of experience in corporate networking and, like me, was leaning toward NetWare for our infrastructure. The logic behind this was simple: We have a head office in Los Angeles and a branch office in San Francisco. Add to that a customer server suite housed at NaviSite and an office to be opened in New York in the near future, and the need for a global directory service is, to say the least, obvious.

I would have preferred to use NetWare to run our customer server suite instead of NT for several reasons, including reliability, performance and security.

Unfortunately, NaviSite doesn't offer support for NetWare.

Now, I choose NaviSite because one of my top criteria for outsourcing was to get the best service I could find. (My experiences with other hosting operations, including a couple of the largest in operation, were nowhere near as good as my experience with NaviSite.)And before you ask, no, I have no ax to grind here, as I sold my NaviSite shares back at around $69 and they just passed $254. This is not a topic I like to dwell upon, and if one of my co-founders should mention the current pricing again, I will not be held responsible for my actions.

So what we will most likely wind up with is both NetWare and NT servers in each of our offices, and NT at NaviSite. To make this more manageable, we'll use Novell Directory Services for NT on all of the NT boxes, including those at NaviSite - NDS will act as organizational glue.

The issue here is that even when you have a leaning toward NetWare, making a commitment can be difficult, as Novell doesn't have the market depth and breadth required to make the decision possible.

In a recent issue of Network World, there was a review of NOSes that caused a furor when NetWare was given second place to Windows 2000. Even though the conclusions of the review were questioned, I'm afraid that the truth is that it is hard to make NetWare No. 1 - there are simply too many barriers to overcome and all of those barriers are named "NT's market."

Tear down the barriers at nwcolumn@gibbs.com.

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