Novell has taken its boldest step yet to increase its market penetration and pre-empt Microsoft NT 5, by giving away its Novell Directory Services (NDS) to software and hardware developers for free. Customers would pay extra for additional NDS services.
The first licensee announced was Sun Microsytems, in a deal that also involves Novell licensing several Java-based products. NDS on Solaris will be available in the first quarter of 1997.
NDS? position in the market has been under fire in the past year, particularly since Microsoft?s much-vaunted Active Directory, which will appear in NT Server 5.0, was previewed at the company's recent developers? conference. Microsoft is not expected to ship beta versions of NT 5.0 until late next year and the product will not be generally be available until a year after that. This gives Novell two years to sew up the booming network directory services market.
Starting immediately, operating system developers can get a royalty-free source code and distribution licence for NDS. Novell also plans to offer a royalty-free binary distribution licence for NDS on NT.
Novell would not comment on the other vendors that are likely to announce NDS source code adoption but it said further announcements would be made over the next few months. It revealed it has been in discussions with Microsoft as a prospective OEM of NDS while William Donahoo, Novell?s senior marketing director, did not dismiss suggestions that the company is talking to IBM. IBM does not have a directory service for OS/2.
Novell is particularly keen to sign up Microsoft and Donahoo questioned whether Microsoft users are willing to wait two years for something that is around today. Novell is currently working on extending NDS support for NT. Donahoo said: ?NDS is in use today - it is here and it is pervasive. Microsoft doesn?t have a dominant share of the market. By not adopting NDS it would lose the opportunity to quickly introduce its NT servers to customers.?
Camiel Camps, networking analyst at IDC, said the move will help Novell regain its position in the market as a premier network environment. ?Now this will make it tough for NT to compete against Novell.? He believes Novell?s motive is to use this to get into more sites and encourage existing Netware 3.x users to upgrade to the latest version of Netware 4, renamed Intranetware.
According to IDC, Novell?s Netware commands 54 per cent of the network operating system market in western Europe. IBM?s OS/2 has 12 per cent and Microsoft has six per cent. Of Novell?s installed base, 61 per cent are still using Netware 3.X, only 16 per cent are using Netware 4.X. Tom Arthur, vice president and general manager of Novell?s Internet infrastructure division, said: ?Novell understands that the value of a network directory depends on the extent of its adoption. While other vendors are hoping to make a business of selling directories as servers or embedding them in proprietary operating systems, Novell is taking a different approach and seeding the market with NDS for directory-based applications and services.?
Arthur said that, as with Java, developers would benefit from creating multiple network devices and applications that run on many platforms by using the same NDS APIs. Novell also plans to open NDS access APIs to Internet/Intranet standards committees.
Network directory services are important, particularly as networks expand to encompass the Internet and Intranets and as staff become more mobile. Because the directory keeps important information about the entire network, such as users, devices and their relationships, having the same network directory service across different platforms and networks will mean people need only log in once and have access to different servers, anywhere in the world.
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