Novell is positioning version 5.0 of Netware to spearhead its first push into the Internet space.
It also plans to use the newly released network operating system (NOS) as a springboard to jump into the enterprise.
Netware has traditionally been sold to manage local area networks in the departmental and small to medium-sized business sectors, but Novell has been broadening the product over the past year. In particular, it hopes for wide corporate uptake of its Netware Directory Services (NDS), which could then help make the NOS ubiquitous.
Chris Stone, Novell's executive vice president of corporate strategy, explained: "The idea is that he who owns the infrastructure wins the game - and the same applies to he who owns the most identity."
He continued: "Everyone loves a leader and everyone will want to buy Netware if NDS becomes ubiquitous, which is why we're talking to the likes of IBM and Compaq about including directory services in their products. We're right at the beginning of a cycle. It generally takes 10 years to do something like this, and we're three to four years into that."
Directory services provide the enabling technology for network administrators to manage their configurations and applications from a centralised point. They also act as a data store for user information, so that individuals can access their own customised desktops either from within the enterprise or remotely by means of user ID.
Novell is also bundling a starter pack, Zen.works, with Netware 5 to help users take advantage of NDS' functionality. The desktop management suite is the first of a family of applications, tools and utilities and is being used as the primary sales pitch to show users what they can use directory services for.
It provides them with a graphical front end to administer remote workstations, manage packages, distribute and install software across the enterprise, and undertake remote diagnostics and repair work. The next version of Netware, which is due to ship in the third quarter, will also come with a Java based graphical user interface to make it easier to use.
However, Sheri Anderson, Novell's chief information officer, said that there would be no Netware 6.0 because the company planned to take a more modular approach to development from now on.
Eric Schmidt, Novell's president and chief executive, explained: "Netware 5.0 is not the end of something, but the start of our new positioning based on directory services. There's a new model of computing emerging and a directory centric world changes the power structure and who the players are."
He is heavily focused on the Internet. "The Internet is the start of a very good thing," he said. "It's creating a market for an 'always aware, always on' network and it's changing the way we build applications. But, we need a strategy to bring order to the chaos and we need to be able to find things, which makes the notion of identity very important."
He added that Netware 5, which started shipping on Friday, had rectified a key user complaint that they could only access the Internet via gateways because the NOS was now based on IP as the default protocol rather than the traditional IPX and SPX local area network protocols. As a result, Internet support should significantly boost Netware sales, he claimed.
But, to improve the product's distributed capabilities, Novell also plans to invest in Objectstar. Objectstar's technology will be included in future releases of Netware and enable NDS objects to communicate with each other in a non-hierachical way by means of the Visigenics object request broker embedded in the NOS. This means it will be easier for NDS based applications and objects to interact with each other over the Internet.
The firm is also positioning Netware 5 as a Java enterprise application server, however, and has integrated a Java Runtime Environment for Windows 95 and NT into the product. This includes a Java Virtual Machine, a just-in-time compiler, and Java class libraries.
Stone explained the rationale: "The real reason for including Java support is to try and get developers back to the platform. Novell was asleep for a long time in trying to attract developers, but we now have 200 Java applications that have been tested and run and we've quadrupled our developer relations group. We're also attempting to push more into the enterprise and it's the fastest growing part of the business. We generated 35 per cent of our revenues there last year and we're aiming for 50 per cent this year."
As a result, the company is negotiating with most of the enterprise resource planning vendors such as SAP to integrate NDS with their applications in an attempt to boost Netware's presence in this crucial enterprise space.
In addition, it has reorganised itself internally to move to more of a direct sales and Internet based sales model and is also building up its currently very small consulting division to help large corporates implement NDS across the organisation and provide them with support services.
To try and boost its low profile in this sector, it is also about to embark on a series of advertising campaigns and plans to host a worldwide Directory Days tour in October in an attempt to educate the marketplace on the benefits of directory services.
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