Novell's chief scientist and vice president for advanced development, Drew Major, was instrumental in changing the face of networking for millions of companies.
He was part of the original team of four software engineers that invented Netware - the first mainstream PC network operating system (NOS). He has since overseen the design and development of every subsequent release of the NOS. He was responsible for designing core Netware features such as the first Dos redirector, the file system and the file cache.
From where did you get the original idea for Netware? The team - called Superset - had worked on DEC's mini computer, Vax, and liked the processor sharing. We wanted to build something like this for PCs, but instead of sharing processing - which was not necessary with PCs - we wanted to share data.
Why did you decide to work on the PC platform?
It was just as IBM began to roll out PCs and we saw that they were just about to explode. Disk storage was expensive and sharing data would cut costs. We figured out that the critical app was the file server.
What will be the immediate future of Netware in the form of 6 Pack and Modesto?
Six Pack centres on additional enhancements to Netware 5 to make it more scalable. Modesto is a complete rewrite of Netware for 64bit. It gave us a clean slate. With a Java program we were the first company to demonstrate a 64bit application running on Intel's pre-Merced architecture.
Is the increasing Java focus in Netware an attempt to take on NT and Unix as an application server?
We have to get real. NT and Unix are general purpose platforms. Netware is specialised. Our real strength is in the networking stuff; caching, file server, routing, and protocols. But with Java, Netware could be a very good apps platform.
Is this just a repeat of the disaster that was SuperNos?
SuperNos was an ill fated attempt to make Netware a more general purpose platform. It's good that customers can run Java applications, but they will buy us for our caching, file servers and directory.
Novell is opening up Netware source code and moving to make its products, including NDS, multi-platform. This will allow them to run on NT and Unix, but won't it lead to Netware being marginalised?
Not necessarily. NDS runs 80 per cent faster on Netware than on NT. The rule of thumb is that you need two or three times as much hardware for NT to do the same job.
But will Netware appliances, such as Internet Cache System, destroy Netware as a stand alone NOS?
Our platform is, in fact, becoming more important to us and not less important - even though we are moving to do cross platform things. We can sell Internet Cache System to NT shops and companies that have traditionally been anti Novell. With the appliance you do not need Netware clients or Netware administration. It's Web managed and Web configured. Netware is totally transparent.
What is Novell's main focus as it moves forward?
There are a lot of opportunities in the Internet infrastructure space. I see two years of us having a lot of fun building things in this middle space. No one except Novell understands the potential of being the little guy in the Internet infrastructure middle ground.
What lessons have you learned from going head to head with Microsoft?
I've learned that you don't paint a bull's eye in front of Microsoft, like we did when we bought DR-Dos and Unix. That was stupid. Netscape did the same and look what happened to them. We are not perceived as a mortal threat - not that Gates wouldn't like to kill us. I've survived against Bill Gates longer than anyone else in this industry.
Will Microsoft still come after Novell?
Microsoft said that it could do all the stuff that Netware could, but better. Fortunately it couldn't. It's very hard to kick us out.
Has Novell really turned the corner?
It was kind of painful for the last few years when we were working on strategies that were broken. It was hard to fix and caused a lot of pain internally and externally. We were lucky that Microsoft didn't fully exploit our weakness and kill us and we did not fully kill ourselves. But now we are resurgent.
What's your favourite film?
I'll have to be romantic and say Casablanca.
For more stories see 31 March issue of Network News UK
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