Novell to rev up Java plans

NEW YORK—Novell Inc. plans to leverage Java and third-party software developers in 1998 in a major effort to break free from its proprietary shackles and into the Web era.

Novell will combine renewed partnerships with third parties such as Netscape Communications Corp. and IBM, with a slow but steady move away from its NLM (NetWare Loadable Module) development API architecture in favor of an object-based Java architecture, in an effort to revive its once-dominant network operating system.

Sources said that in January Novell, Netscape and their Novonyx joint venture may announce a major bundling deal. The bundle, expected to ship in mid-1998, would combine Netscape's Enterprise Server and Novell's NetWare 5.0. Enterprise Server has been ported to NetWare by Novonyx.

The bundling deal is currently under negotiation, according to sources close to the companies.

Such a move could be huge for Novell, of Orem, Utah, which has quietly buried its own Web server and is one of the few operating system vendors without a noticeable Web service.

"Where is Novell and the Web?" asked a network administrator at a large Los Angeles law firm that uses NetWare. "It's about time someone just woke up and realized that they just have to do something like this."

Equally important to Novell is its move to Java, which would encourage such developers to write applications for the NetWare platform. While the company has no plans to entirely kill off NLMs in favor of Java, Chris Stone, senior vice president of corporate strategy at Novell, said it is imperative that the company provide a way for the general development public to create applications for NetWare.

This week at Internet World here, Novell announced the framework for its development plans with the rollout of OSA (Open Solutions Architecture).

In an effort to bridge the gap before Java is fully implemented on all levels, Stone said the company will work with a number of tool vendors to ensure that their compilers work with NetWare.

However, by the time NetWare 5.0 ships in mid-1998, the company will have close to 90 percent of its APIs converted to Java-in essence providing a Java wrapper around the current NLMs, officials said.

As a result, developers will be able to access NLMs without having to know the low-level programming, officials said. Going forward, Novell will work on converting all its services into native Java implementations. The first will likely be Managewise, they said.

Stone added that Novell is also working on improving its relationship with IBM. For example, Novell is working on a Java/Web solution for NetWare that would enable users to access IBM back-end systems.

Dave Clare, director of corporate and product strategies at Novell, said one of the focal points for Novell in 1998 will be to bring the idea of a "digital persona" to market.

While Clare declined to give specific details or release dates, he said the idea is similar to what Novell has done with NetWare Application Launcher for Windows-only with a focus on Java and the Web.

To do a Java and Web version, Novell is looking at working with third-party push providers that are supportive of Java, said Clare.

"The idea is that a user should be able to access one set of data and applications" regardless of the device used or the location of the user, said Clare.