Novell Strikes Back--Finally

Aside from occasional jabs during press conferences and a random white paper here and there, Novell has done little to capitalize on the lateness of Microsoft's Windows 2000 product. Until now.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Aside from occasional jabs during press conferences and a random white paper here and there, Novell has done little to capitalize on the lateness of Microsoft's Windows 2000 product.

Until now.

Novell has launched a Web site where it plans to itemize the advantages of NetWare 5.1, the latest version of its network operating system, vs. Windows 2000, Microsoft's next-generation platform due to launch officially on Feb. 17.

Novell's decision to launch the anti-Windows 2000 site comes at a time when other Microsoft rivals and partners are commencing month-long marketing campaigns leading up to the Windows 2000 rollout next month in San Francisco.

This week, Compaq held a press conference, the first of four, where it touted its status as the largest Windows 2000 deployment site outside of Microsoft. Next week, it plans to unveil Compaq-branded Windows 2000 services. IBM, for its part, at Fall COMDEX unveiled its line of Windows 2000 planning, deployment and maintenance services. Big Blue has scheduled another Windows 2000 press conference for Feb. 9 to roll out additional Windows 2000 hardware, software and services, IBM officials say.

It's About Time

Novell isn't lining up alongside the rest of the Microsoft faithful, even though the company continues to work with Microsoft in areas like Active Directory Services Interfaces.

"With Windows 2000 finally about to ship, Microsoft's marketing machine has turned into high gear, launching what is expected to be the most expensive marketing campaign in software industry history," says the lead text on Novell's Windows 2000 Web site. "On this site, Novell will help you separate the hype from the reality, and give you compelling reasons why Novell's networking solutions fulfill today's business needs more effectively than Microsoft's."

Novell officials said to expect the "new Novell" to do a lot more guerilla marketing, going forward.

"We have a new charter that allows us to do this kind of stuff ... under our new marketing organization," says Dave Eckert, competitive analysis manager with Novell's market intelligence group.

Eckert says Novell doesn't believe it's late to the Windows 2000 critique club. "Finally, there's actually a shipping product we can compare to. It's tough to be competitive with vaporware," he says. "It's not really the eleventh hour," even though Microsoft has less than a month to go until it rolls out Windows 2000, Eckert claims. "It's really like 6 o'clock in the morning. There are still no expectations by market analysts of serious [Windows 2000] deployments for some time."

Wining And Dining

Novell watchers, including many of its most loyal resellers and customers, have wondered aloud why Novell made a conscious choice not to turn up the heat sooner on Microsoft. As Novell delivered several upgrades of NetWare and its Novell Directory Services (NDS), Microsoft struggled to get Windows 2000 and its Active Directory NDS competitor out the door.

Novell CEO Eric Schmidt said on numerous occasions that he saw Microsoft as more of a partner than an adversary. And sources say that Schmidt made it known inside the company that he did not want Novell officials to bad mouth Microsoft--even when Microsoft launched its own attacks against Novell and its well-established NDS.

Microsoft published a white paper last year questioning whether or not Novell's NDS For NT product would be able to interoperate with Windows 2000's Active Directory--a document whose validity Novell executives questioned publicly. Microsoft also has made no bones about its strategy to win over Novell's Platinum resellers and has wined and dined them in Seattle, at Microsoft's expense, in an attempt to do so.

Indeed, even on the "Novell Advantage Over Windows 2000" site, Novell doesn't take the 100-percent hard-line approach that other competitors might have. The site offers a link where Novell details options for those who prefer Windows 2000 to NetWare. "For those companies which deploy Windows 2000, Novell will continue its tradition of adding value to Microsoft and integrating Microsoft products more efficiently into heterogeneous networks."

More Subtle Strikes

Nonetheless, the Novell site does offer some hard-hitting information, as well. Novell offers its counterevidence to Microsoft performance claims surrounding NT 4.0 vs. Windows 2000. Novell also takes Microsoft to task on group size, disk caching and partitioning issues.

Novell is striking back in more subtle ways, as well. It announced during the course of its Global Partner Summit in Phoenix this week an alliance with Perot Systems, the first company to partner with Novell through its newly minted Consultant and Systems Integrator Alliance program. CSI partners are charged with integrating Novell's latest version of NDS, called NDS eDirectory, with ERP, CRM, supply-chain management and other business applications.

Novell also announced on Thursday it plans to deliver in March an LDAP software-development kit to help speed the development of eDirectory-enabled applications. Novell claims on its anti-Win2K site that Microsoft is not supporting some LDAP interoperability features.

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