back to article How the clammy claws of Novell NetWare were torn from today's networks

Before the internet, local area networks were the big thing. A company called Novell was the first to exploit the trend for connecting systems, ultimately becoming "the LAN king" with its NetWare server operating system. There were alternatives to Novell and NetWare in the 1990s - 3Com’s 3+Share, for example – but such was its …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Don't forget X

    Its not only NDS which b0rk the Netware experience I think, it's also the somewhat flakey way it operated.

    Netware 4 finally allowed you to manage your users from the server console, instead of the 3.11 way of demanding that the server would only be able to manage the server, and as soon as you needed to manage the user accounts you just had to find a client and logon.

    I always considered that a major flaw; even more so when a friend and me tried to gain 'super' rights on a school network and his "super" program tried to logon as super approximately 4000 times with a wrong password. Effectively locking out an enraged administrator who didn't have a backup account and could now no longer logon for the following 48 hours.

    But the thing is, if memory serves me right you needed X to do it. Netware had embraced X on the server, something which immediately struck me as odd because wasn't that Linux terrain? So if Novell deemed X usage worthy, then surely there had to be much more to that Linux stuff then we realized so far...

    I think that also opened up a lot of eyes. Because although many people knew what Linux could be capable of at that time, it wasn't exactly as popular as it is now. And here you had a major network company actually using "Linux components".

    1. John Deeb
      Boffin

      Re: Don't forget X

      ShelLuser, you sound terribly confused on the matter. Memory didn't serve you right. Re-install :-)

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Don't forget X

      I have no knowledge of Netware myself, but if you are talking X11, then it's UNIX, not Linux. Linux had X11 servers and clients (of course), but X11's home was UNIX (and to an extent, some proprietary OS's like VMS).

      If it was X11, then what it gave you was the ability to run the GUI administration client programs remotely on any workstation with an X11 server (if you are unfamiliar with it, the server controlled the screen, keyboard and mouse, and programs that attached to this X11 server were clients, wherever they ran), meaning that you would have the ability to remotely administer the Netware server, long before RDP, VNC, or Citrix were on the scene.

      X11 servers were available for UNIX and Linux workstations, OS/2 and even Windows NT and later systems, as well as thin clients from people like NCD and Tektronix, so there were a wide variety of workstations that you would have been able to use.

      People tend to forget what an enabler X11 was.

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Don't forget X

      Shoot, you could have used one of the many security holes to gain superuser. For example, to be able to access files to print them, the print server had an "assume privs of client" call for any file it was printing.

      Thus you could wait for a superuser to queue up a print job, declare yourself a print server, service the print job, call "assume privs of client" thus becoming superuser, assign yourself the superuser priv, then say you couldn't service the print job after all so it would be released back to the queue and a real print server would deal with it.

      Another fun one was the fact that server processes running on workstations (such as print servers) would automatically be added to the bindery when they broadcast their ability to serve jobs of type $FOO. This was all fine'n'dandy until you wrote a server of type "user" at which point you were inserted into the bindery of all the servers and showed up in the admin app as a user. You didn't have a password property so you couldn't log in, but the admins would wet their pants at seeing a new unauthorized "user"

    4. cosmo the enlightened
      Happy

      Re: Don't forget X

      From the console, you could do the magic six finger (or in my case five finger plus nose) keystroke and enter debug on a live server. Great days, and great fun

      ... and old CNE who dreams of past times!

  2. Dr Who

    The real king of networking

    No mention of Banyan Vines and its legendary StreetTalk directory services. Light years ahead of its time although a bit overkill for very small businesses. Multi-site, native WAN connections via dedicated routing cards, and host of other features made it scale with ease which is why any large business building a serious enterprise wide network was using it.

    Banyan's supreme achievement however was the utter crapness of their sales and marketing which managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Truly a triumph of dreadful business strategy over brilliant technology.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Oh really ?

      I wonder what this sentence is talking about then : "Banyan’s VINES had been offering this for years with StreetTalk, but it was a specialist product, whereas NetWare was the leading PC server OS." ?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. JQW

      Re: The real king of networking

      There were several other problems with Banyan, other than their marketing department:

      Beyond Mail, their enhanced Windows E-mail client they acquired, was dreadfully buggy. In particular version 3, the 32-bit Windows version, which constantly crapped out with error messages when handling rules that worked fine in the previous release.

      Hardware issues: They were hampered by a limit of 2GB per file-system for far too long. They were also very late in releasing a means of allowing hardware vendors to create their own server device drivers for NICs and storage devices. Their own serial card, the only one supported for many server-to-server comms, was notoriously difficult to configure on many server platforms, until it was re-designed many years too late.

      Then, when Windows NT Server was taking off, Banyan tried to support long filenames. They cocked up the handling of codepages badly, that many systems suffered serious corruption, at lest when using codepages from outside the US. That was the last straw for many sites.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: The real king of networking

      Actually, the real king was probably XNS which Novell, Ungermann-Bass, Banyan and others in the 80's tried to emulate.

      Remember what we are talking about is office workgroup networking. In the 80's many PC's were effectively being purchased as replacements for typewriters by departments and bypassing the 'IT Dept.'.

      As the use of PC's spread, workgroup networks got larger and the IT department became involved, so the need to interconnect with Enterprise IT and non-PC equipment grow to the fore, which due to various reasons TCP/IP very rapidly became the preferred protocol suite. [Aside: Note I say protocol suite, as Netware and other experts will observe, there is more to office workgroup solutions than the raw networking protocol stack.] With the workgroup solutions being replaced by Enterprise solutions...

  3. Bill Posters
    Pint

    Brings a tear.

    Started with this stuff - NetWare 2.11. 'Had Windows 1.0' sitting on one of the volumes for that new fangled GUI 'Excel' Spreadsheet.

    NDS / then eDirectory scaled nicely into multi million entries...

    GUI on a server? Whats the point if you're just going to brick it up in a recently refurbished comms room for future admins, auditors, "transformation' project teams and archeologists to fret over?

    But we grow old, our hair falls out (or goes grey if lucky) and we deal with Foggy Fake Farms. (That's virtualised servers in Data Centres charged out by the photo , email address or whatever, for you young PFY.)

    When I were a lad CLI didn't exist, 'cos you don't need an acronym for the only way to do something.

    Try to tell that to the young people today, they won't believe you.

  4. RainForestGuppy

    What destroyed Netware.. Perfect Office!!

    NDS was far superior to Active Directory, but basically the "management" at Novell decided to try to compete against MS Office in the desktop application market.

    I remember going to a trade show and wanted to discuss Netware and although the Novell stand was the biggest there it was all about Perfect Office and Netware was relegated to a tiny kiosk tacked on the side.

    They basically gave up on their core product to flirt in another area and got seriously stiffed! They tried to come back with Netware 5, but by then it was too late.

    If I had a time machine I would go back to the meeting where some joker decided that Novell should by Word Perfect and shoot them!!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: What destroyed Netware.. Perfect Office!!

      But that is only true in hindsight and with the knowledge of Microsoft Trotskyism.

      They might have been a contender...

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Meh

        Re: What destroyed Netware.. Perfect Office!!

        "But that is only true in hindsight and with the knowledge of Microsoft Trotskyism.

        They might have been a contender..."

        True.

        "History" tends to be written by the winners in a conflict.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What destroyed Netware.. Perfect Office!!

      didn't they buy Word Perfect?

      I remember we were running 3.12 when I started where I am now (1998), we quickly went to 4.11 and then in about 2000 went to Windows 2000. We also ran Groupwise (or Griefwise as we called it)

      1. Joe User

        Re: What destroyed Netware.. Perfect Office!!

        didn't they buy Word Perfect?

        Yes. Novell bought WordPerfect in June 1994 and sold it to Corel in January 1996.

  5. Alan Bourke

    Ah, Netware.

    The days of installing you from all those stacks of red floppies. It was rock solid, for the most part.

    However, Personal Netware was muck, as were many of the iterations of the client for Windows 95, especially when you had to lock flat-file databases.

  6. Alan Bourke

    Also utilisation snakes.

    FTW

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah, Netware.

      Netware 286 and before were compiled during installation which was why you had such large numbers of five and a quarter inch floppies, one of the later versions had around 42 disks, the first six of which you had to copy so the compiled version could be written to them.

      A technical salesman friend at the time told me he forever had clients calling him saying "look it's asking for disk 2 again, I've had to put that one in about 5 times", to which he said he wearily replied "yeah perfectly normal, keep going" lol

      My first Netware server at a big Pharma company had an undetected hardware problem with a disk controller for some time and as a result I got to install Netware 286 quite a few times (this was in an era when asking manufacturers for diagnostics drew puzzled expressions) and as such got quite good at the install process which scared the living daylights out of a lot of people at the time, I was quite miffed when Netware 386 and Netware Loadable Modules came out, felt like you'd lost mastery of a dark art :)

    2. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      Re: Ah, Netware.

      "as were many of the iterations of the client for Windows 95"

      Oh, they weren't all bad. They got me a job once. The main problem from where I was standing was that despite well-documented hooks inside the Win9X VMM for being a network redirector (file-sharing client) that were used by *all* other redirectors issued by everyone else, the Novell client for NetWare networks (as opposed to the Microsoft client for NetWare networks, which was just fine) took it upon itself to totally ignore those hooks, and instead trap file accesses before they got into the heart of Win95's file-system management stuff.

      Consequence: if you were writing an on-access AV scanner for Win95, intercepting calls to the Novell client was a major chore, and (here speaks the voice of experience) involved techniques closely resembling those used by DOS viruses. Bah.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah, Netware.

        the various Novell NT4 clients were NOT good!

    3. Sammy Smalls
      Unhappy

      Re: Also utilisation snakes.

      I remember installing 4 dot something on a dual CPU machine and seeing the blue snake for the first time. T'was a thing of wonder.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    The real issue is - once again - IBM

    And yet again we learn that a good product drowned because IBM couldn't be arsed to do its marketing properly and ignored OS2.

    It was 1995, and it was IBM. For Heaven's sake, IBM should have wiped the floor with Microsoft, established OS/2 as the business OS and blared the message over TV and radio.

    Did IBM have a marketing budget in those days ? I wonder what it was used for. Inviting VIP customers to barbecues in exotic locations, perhaps ? Because they sure didn't do any sales pitches.

    Losers.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: The real issue is - once again - IBM

      Yes, they did. But their business solutions had OS/2 as a stepchild, and pricey "Business Solutions" based on some three-letter acronyms and mysterious "software suites" and "network protocols" explained in glossy brochures were front and center.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: The real issue is - once again - IBM

      I think both IBM and Novell had problems with price. I recall a comparitive review in PC Magazine between the fairly new NT and whatever Novell were offering at the time. Novell had roughly twice the performance on any metric you cared to ask, but the MS reply was simply "but the price difference is so large that you could by a dual processor box with gobs of RAM to run NT on and it would wipe the floor with Novell's offering and *still* be cheaper".

      Which is the main reason that Linux was able to wipe the floor with Windows Server several years later.

    3. Fred Goldstein

      Re: The real issue is - once again - IBM

      IBM tried to market OS/2 but Microsoft had a dirty trick up its sleeve which killed it.

      Microsoft's oem contract in those days charged per PC sold, not per PC using DOS or Windows. So if a PC vendor sold an OS/2 machine, it would still need to pay Microsoft for the unused DOS/Windows license. This was a lock-out. So OS/2 mainly sold at retail, to enthusiasts (like me) who recognized its superiority.

      Of course an oem could get a different type of license from Microsoft, but the price would be prohibitive.

  8. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    There were many good things about Netware.

    File and directory security wasn't entirely fubar'd... the Windows security model, even now, is still messed up entirely and is not as capable or effective as what was available on Netware. Access rights were centrally stored and administered which was a huge advantage when managing accounts as it was possible to see what rights a user had without having to check every single device and share somewhere on the network to see what arbitrary rights had been assigned there. Not that this model scales overly well but it was a lot easier to manage and more transparent.

    Want to prevent a user from moving a directory? Easy with Netware, "impossible" with Windows... how many and how often are file shares dragged from one location to another and "lost"?

    From my point, it all started to go wrong with Netware 5 and the continued fragmentation of the user interface... some tasks could only be done on the server on it's awful and extremely inefficient GUI, some on "legacy" client tools and others through using the text based interface. It's implementation of TCP/IP was massively improved but that didn't make it more of a joy to confgure.

    I suppose the active changes that Microsoft made to continually break the Netware client and removing the login / authentication plugins forcing Novell to work around things all the time couldn't have helped either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think your last paragraph is the key. I was in the thick of running several Netware sites at that time, and the continual deliberate efforts by MS to break the Novell client login were a serious problem. And don't make any mistake about it, it was a deliberate MS policy to break the client software to cripple Netware in the market. It was the major reason that the place I worked transitioned to MS NT network, which was an absolute abortion of a system compared to Netware for straight up File and Print, with nonsense for security.

      We had the local head MS person distributing this "white paper" on how NT had gained the top level security rating from some US Government agency, which impressed the bosses no end. However that was entirely deflated when it was pointed out at a public forum that the rating only applied when the NT machine was quite specifically disconnected from all external access. He was forced to admit that after first denying it when faced with the actual documentation, and also had to admit that a computer that wasn't attached to any other was of limited use in a network situation. That piece of mendacity however didn't stop the transition to NT, and the network was a disaster for several years.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not all progress

    Yes Microsoft Windows Server was good for application servers but the whole point for many companies was that control of data was centralised, Netware did after all spring from a University project to see if the humble PC could deliver a similar environment for the mainframe, whereas Windows took the approach for a long while that it was ok for users to share willy nilly without the admins say so, good for a small team of developers or a small company but appalling to the average corporate company IT department who knew only to well the horrendous messes users could get themselves into (Remember this was before everyone had a PC at home, I can well remember being asked by one manager after we put Windows 3.0 on his PC "So tell me how does this mouse thingy work?" (it was at times like that you knew that you were going to get nothing else done that day).

    That's not to say Netware couldn't run applications, many Netware servers did, and did it well, the thing that really sunk Netware was marketing, Microsoft really excel at this and as one Novell salesman told me one of the main reasons the Xwindow/Java console was added was because Microsoft were demonstrating Windows to senior mangers within companies extolling the GUI environment and running down Netware for being heavily CLI (Novell caught up later but we're talking NT3.51 period)

    It's taken a very long time for Microsoft to truly become a worthwhile successor to Netware, for a long while technically Novell was able to offer far more and better networking solutions than Microsoft, but in the end Microsoft killed their market with superior marketing and presence.

  10. Irongut

    Ah Netware. How I enjoyed the many hours I spent learinging your obscure commands and admin apps.

    I used Netware 3.x in several jobs at large and small companies. I never really had the chance to try Netware 4 or 5 because everyone upgraded from 3.12 to Windows NT 4.

    1. Cynical Observer

      Typo

      I used Netware 3.x in several jobs at large and small companies. I never really had the chance to try Netware 4 or 5 because everyone upgraded migrated from 3.12 to Windows NT 4.

      There - fixed that for you.

    2. MJI Silver badge
      FAIL

      Wrong - NT4 was a downgrade

      Replaced a few with Netware Servers

      4x faster

  11. ACZ

    Netware 3.11 - the good old days...

    For me as a non-IT person who was responsible for IT of a small company back in the early/mid-90s, Netware was perfect - simple, easy, and *it just worked*. Our office file/print server just never went down, backups ran happily every night, and the dozen or so users never really appreciated or noticed what was going on. Internet access and email (thanks Paul Smith and vPOP3) was seamlessly added, and we had a small business set-up that ran happily for many years.

    Bliss... :)

    1. keithpeter
      Childcatcher

      Re: Netware 3.11 - the good old days...

      "...and we had a small business set-up that ran happily for many years."

      @ACZ and others: Am I imagining this or was there version control available on the Netware shared drives? I seem to remember reverting to an earlier version of a Very Important Word File had got messed up.

      The Children: they have no idea....

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Netware 3.11 - the good old days...

        Yes there was. Although it's such a long time ago that I can't remember what the pre-requisites for this were, but it was an amazingly useful feature and saved a lot of blushes.

        1. ACZ

          Re: Netware 3.11 - the good old days...

          Crumbs... it's all a bit of a blur, but I think that you're talking about the SALVAGE utility.

          If you knew about the accidental deletion fairly quickly then you could usually get files back before they were purged from the volume. Depending on how you were doing for available space on the volume, you could have a fairly extended version history.

          Next. I'll be reminiscing about Word Perfect 6.1...

          ;)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        Re: Netware 3.11 - the good old days...

        Something about file versioning I seem to recall.

        The server kept versioned copies of files which you could restore or somesuch.

        $DEITY, that seems like a long time ago... :D

  12. AndrueC Silver badge
    Boffin

    I have fond(ish) memories of NetWare file systems. NetWare 3 and 4 in particular often came to us with damaged or recreated partition sectors. It only took a little bit of maths and occasionally a 'mix and match' between the two FATs and catalogues and then you got everything back. As they were server OSes people were fairly happy to pay big bucks for us to recover their data.

    NetWare 2 FS was more awkward and NetWare 5 we never saw in the wild.

  13. Tom 7 Silver badge

    it was also overkill: you had to have a tree,

    no - much better to try an add it later when you've painted yourself into a corner.

    The trouble with SME's and SOHO's is you set them up simply and that makes it nigh on impossible to upgrade to the next level without some serious disruption.

    The trouble with the last twenty five years of computing is that someone said it would be simple. They lied.

    And sold you a lot of easy to use software on that lie. And will sell you a lot more if you try and expand unless you can own your own configuration.

  14. John Tserkezis

    Ahh, the memories.

    I started with Netware v2, loved v3, especially the "side installing" feature where you could install Netware from another existing Netware server on the network. I booted off a specially coded batch file on a single floppy, pressed a few keys along the way, and after twenty minutes of arse-scratching, I had a fully functional Netware 3 server ready to be deployed.

    Ahh, the memories... I miss those days.

    Then again, the "cheapo" hardware of the day meant seriously unreliable hardware - even with pre-testing - meant I had the boss on my arse for sending out faulty equipment every so often. I tried to give the "crap in, crap out" argument, but he didn't buy that, he only cared about the bottom line.

    Ahh, the memories... I hate those days.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wrote a lot of software for NetWare from version 2 through to version 5 and had a lot of interaction with Novell in their HQ hell hole in Provo. It was a great and efficient system. The NLM model allowed for critical services to be downed, upgraded and restarted without requiring a reboot, something modern O/Ses have a problem with.

    To my mind, one of the factors that killed NetWare was the amount of time Novell spent doing version 5 for no real functional gain. With NT as (poor) functional competition the main criticism hurled at Novell was that there was no GUI on the server. They spent an inordinate amount of time creating the Java console. I'm sure this was directed by the remnants of the team that previously ran the AppWare project, since it was clunky, slow and often crashed. If Novell had concentrated on their core technology instead of wasting so much time and resource on a failed cosmetic exercise NetWare may well have survived longer, though I'm not sure it would ever have one.

    Novell's fear of Microsoft had them worrying about the wrong things. Microsoft were far more scared of Novell. I recall one meeting of a standards group where I met a Microsoft Program Manager who's job for the previous 18 months had been to reverse engineer the NDS components and the use of LDAP. We saw the benefits of this in later versions of Windows Server and as Microsoft caught up with Novell's level of functionality there was less market incentive to switch to NetWare - then, of course Linux came along, too.

  16. TeeCee Gold badge

    Don't forget the client!

    Back in the DOS / early Win days, the advent of the Novell ODI stack was a revelation. The moduler setup meant you could poke various bits of it into high memory until you achieved a very optimal memory configuration.

    The architecture of it, with the Link Support Layer sitting on the card driver and arbitrating the different network stacks (including the Novell client) above, meant it had another trick up its sleeve. One of my mates worked at the time in a mixed ICL / UNIX / whatever environment and one evening down the pub, was regaling me with how of the five(!) different network clients they needed to use, any four could be made to play together with varying levels of stability, but not all five. Part of the problem was that the network cards they were using were a tad esoteric.

    A couple of days later, I handed him a floppy containing the Novell card drivers for his kit and a copy of the LSL.

    "But....but....we don't use Novell?"

    "Yes, but every other bugger does. Just install that and tell everything else it's on a Novell network."

    Worked a treat.

  17. Nick Roberts
    Meh

    Incredible..

    That "ABEND" needs to be explained on El Reg...

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Incredible..

      Incredible that people have gone back to thinking that UAE is a reference to a country in the Middle East :D

    2. Matt Piechota

      Re: Incredible..

      "That "ABEND" needs to be explained on El Reg..."

      Considering the Software Devs I go to lunch with were 6 years old when Netware 4 was released, I don't think it's that incredible. I'd imagine there are a few IT folks here that have never seen Netware, no?

      Favorite memory of Netware: Coming into the server room and only seeing:

      C:\>

      on the server console.

      1. John 197
        Thumb Up

        Re: Incredible..

        My favorite memory of Netware...rarely having to reboot a server until you needed to. at times not for years

    3. Daniel B.
      Boffin

      Re: Incredible..

      I do know the meaning of ABEND, but I relate that more with mainframes than Novell.

      Oh, I did manage a NetWare server & network ... and I was a teen back then! Stuck to NetWare 3, as upgrading to NetWare 4 was oh so very expensive! Even back then we knew that someone was eventually going to eat Novell's lunch, but back then we were thinking of Apple as System 7 already had file sharing for free. NT wasn't there yet, and OS/2 was ... ok, in some commercials. But I never got to see OS/2 in all its glory.

  18. Why Not?

    Novell 3.1x - ran fast and easy loved it. NW 4 made sense eventually.

    But NT3.x allowed you to use a PC that cost a months pay as a workstation as well as sharing files. Cost of Netware = 2 weeks pay. NT3.x = 2 days pay.

    If you were selling 3 - 4 machines with a shared database to a customer you could knock off the cost of the server machine.

    Novell could have added a decent native database and dropped the cost and have had more of a chance.

    1. Sammy Smalls
      Happy

      Well it did have btrieve......

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Mushroom

        Well it did have btrieve......

        OI! You. Mouth. Soap. Now.

  19. TommyMitch

    Nostaglia isn't what it used to be...

    As a technologist who lived through this entire period, this piece, as interesting as it is, strikes me as a slightly MS tinted mis-remembering of the facts.

    Microsoft's conquering of Novell, and IBM for that matter, was a more of a brute force marketing triumph rather than a meritocratic victory achieved through technical superiority. Windows NT was a botch concocted from the failed OS/2 joint development with IBM and it's neworking was almost entirely the ridiculously poor Microsoft LAN Manager/IBM LAN Server products (residue of which still exists in MS networking today).

    Microsoft recognised they couldn't beat Novell on technology and made two separate offers to buy them (1989 and 1991, I believe) but Novell's somewhat arrogant CEO at the time, Ray Noorda, rejected them out of hand. The latter offer was somewhere in the region of $13bn which was a lot of money in 1991 :)

    Having failed to acquire the market leading technology, Microsoft setting about crushing the competition as per their standard practice. Very cleverly done through incentivising partners (In the UK a partner would recieve a £500 rebate for every Novell server switched) and creating an army of brainwashed techies by introducing the easiest accreditation in the market place (my mother could have become an MCSE at the time).

    Windows NT was sold on the basis that it was multi user, multi tasking OS but single handedly created the phenomemon that became server sprawl (Vmware have a lot to thank them for - ironic that MS is frantically chasing a market they effectively created!) because the OS was so inefficient it couldn't scale in terms of concurrent users or realistically handle multiple applications. Customers were duped.

    In some cases, customers migrating from NetWare to NT replaced half a dozen servers with 50 or more. Efficent?, Simple? Easy to manage? I won't even begin to discuss security, resilience and reliability...

    Novell's arrogance was their own undoing. They believed their superior technology would see off all comers. They had a hugely loyal and largely satisfied customer based but they misunderstood what really mattered to them. You would think they would have learned something from the disastrous acquisitions of UNIX and Wordperfect but apparently not.

    NetWare was what customers relied on, knew and loved, not the services that ran above. When they decided to retire NetWare and port services to SUSE, they were effectively asking customers to adopt a brand new and unknown OS. Since most already had Windows somewhere in the Enterprise, it made little sense for most to make that transition and it was the Open Goal for Microsof that finally ended the battle.

    It's fair to say that Microsoft have done a remarkable job of retaining the market share they acquired and their products have improved dramatically. But it's taken a hell of a long time to get to a place Novell were at 10 years ago.

    It's very true that history is written by the victor.

    1. perlcat
      Unhappy

      Re: Nostaglia isn't what it used to be...

      ....and don't forget the Foul Beast's including an emulation of Netware 3.12 as network services. Novell left an opening at 4.x NDS, with small shops wanting to keep the bindery on their small networks, and M$ gave it away.

      I saw that, and said "well, so much for me getting a 4.0 CNE."

    2. redniels
      Meh

      Re: Nostaglia isn't what it used to be...

      I also worked IT (and still do) in that period and we also booted Netware for winNT. not because it was better... it was easier. much, much easier. no more painfull client installs which always f*ed up. no more mucking around with those crazy never good behaving print queues. We missed NDS. but we gained so much stability on the clients that we never ever looked back.

      So yes, the netware server was.. cleaner, more stable. but the user experience was dreadfull. the Novel 4.x client had a 24-32 MB footprint. which was too much on for the PC's of that time with (Win95-98) 32-64 MB RAM. way too much.

      Novell's client is what killed Netware at our (and many other) shops. Not MS.

      It was a no brainer: let your users crash and burn with the novel 4.x client or let them work....

    3. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
      Windows

      Re: Nostaglia isn't what it used to be...

      How much simpler it was. Either or was mainly a function of your IT budget. Netware was more expensive and required a higher level of support staff. The MS products were evolving very quickly then and support cost less.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm no mention of how incredibly unstable Netware 4.0x was??! A million miles away from the legendary stability of netware 3.

    Netware 4.1x and upwards seemed to regain most of that stability, although the robustness of the NDS database never truely matured until netware 6 IMHO. Before 6.x, most companies I've worked in had to resort to far too regular use of dsrepair.

    But anyway..... There's nothing wrong with netware - we still use it across multiple sites :)

    1. MJI Silver badge

      4.11 was reliable

      I have seen uptimes over a year for 3.12, 4.11, 4.2, and various 5

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: 4.11 was reliable

        Yup - it took us three days to find a netware 3.12 server after a power outage as no-one left knew where the bloody thing was - it may still be there as we set it to autoboot on power on.

    2. Cynical Observer
      FAIL

      @AC 13:52pm

      Before 6.x, most companies I've worked in had to resort to far too regular use of dsrepair.

      In which case, they were doing it wrong. DSREPAIR became something akin to the modern antibiotic. Regardless of the disease, regardless of how it should be treated, chuck them into the mix - after all what harm can they do.

      Want to make a Novell Support Engineer wince - tell them you've just run an unattended full repair - 'cos it seemed like a good idea.

      The number of Sys Admins that have been chastised over the years for running needless DSREPAIRS is quite scary. Now that in itself raises another question? Why weren't they properly trained to use the proper utilities in the proper circumstances.

  21. pwhite.gb

    The FIRST real NOS

    Banyan was the first real NOS vendor and claims the title of KING, EMPORER and dare I say GOD.

    In fact StreetTalk was ported to NetWare, and reverse engineered for NT to add an enterprise class directory service.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: The FIRST real NOS

      Banyan was the first real NOS vendor

      Sure, if you ignore all the operating systems with real networking features that came before it.

      The whole "NOS" concept is shorthand for "cramming networking onto crippled systems". Being the first NOS is like being the team that wins the three-legged race.

  22. Stampsy

    I'm still a guardian of netware 6.5 and I am bang in the middle of creating the 'upgrade' plan to move my company's infrastructure to server 2012.

    Even today E directory is such a better implemented schema and I am seriously going to cry over the ease of complete access control netware gives you comopared to the hoops that AD makes you jump thru.

    But time & technology moves on and has forced me to take this dependable workhorse round back and shoot it in the head.

    :(

    1. Pirate Dave
      Pirate

      re:

      I'm in the same boat here. After 18 years of running Novell, we're moving to Server 2012 by Christmas. I won't miss our OES2 Linux servers, as I hate, hate, HATE them, but I WILL miss the 4 or 5 NW6.5 boxes I still have in service. We're giving up Groupwise and moving to Office365 for email (yeah, I'll probably regret that decision later on).

      AD has nothing on eDir, but Powershell does make it a little easier. It's still a bitter pill, though. But hey, gotta stay modern and hip.

  23. jberger

    The thing that killed Netware was the Novell itself.

    I think it was CEO Frankenburg who loudly proclaimed on stage at Novell's largest vendor/user conference Brainshare that Netware was NOT an application server it was for File and Print and it would never be an App Server.

    Many a vendor in the audience looked completely shocked and the buzz on the show floor completely changed. The CEO effectively killed off the vendors who were already writing apps for the server and forced them to support microsoft's platform instead.

    Novell always had great technology, but could never figure out how to MARKET the tech in a sustainable way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ahhh brainshare that was a good week long bash, went to two of them 98 and 99 at Salford Uni

  24. MJI Silver badge

    Best NOS I have used

    Fast reliable trustable and worked

    Used it with ADS as a dataserver

  25. wonderboy1

    I think one thing that people forget about the Netware vs NT war is that at the time NetWare licenses were policed very strictly, you simply had to had enough licenses or it wouldn't work, whereas NT effectively used 'honesty box' licensing. Thus, when SMBs ran out of licenses it became very easy to 'move a few things' to NT. Door opened.

    What troubles me just now is that in the SMB space, VMware is very closely following in Novell's footsteps. They have a great product, but they simply are charging too much for it vs the main Hyper-V competition, and having to pay $$$ for 'enterprise' features just doesn't look good to SMBs.

    1. DougMac

      Exactly, the lack of forced licensing is the only reason Microsoft took off as the server OS.

      Netware forced per-client licenses, if you ran out, you had to jump through hoops and negotiate new licenses, and customers *hated* doing this. They all figured that once they owned it, they never had to pay again (at least that was what 100% of my customer base thought).

      Windows NT server didn't enforce their CALs, and back then, I didn't have a single customer who was actually correct on the number of CAL counts for their workstations. Customers loved just being able to hook in a new workstation and not have to license it or think about licensing, as it wasn't enforced.

      When Netware 4.x came out, it was so buggy and unusable, almost everybody stuck with v3.12 until NT was stable enough. It was more the bugs in Netware 4.x that really missed the mark, but the per license cost is what did it in.

      There were several other workgroup filer solutions based on Unix (ie. pre-linux). They worked very well, but again were generally licensed per workstation connecting to them, and the companies had to buy things like PC-NFS client software for their windows workstations. So they were too pricey for most of my customers as well.

  26. Pirate Dave

    Netware's Dead?

    I should go turn off my NW 6.5 servers then... ;)

    But in my experience, it wasn't NT that killed Netware. NT merely gutted the dead Netware corpse. What really killed Netware was the built-in File and Printer sharing in Windows 95/98. Suddenly, small 3-4 user shops didn't have to pay $500+ for Netware so they could share files and have networked printers, they could share files and printers right from their shiny new PackardBells running Windows 95/98. IMHO, that ate up a lot of Netware's "grass roots" purchases. I saw it here several times - small companies running Netware 2 or 3 on aging hardware needed to upgrade, and pretty much every one of them, when given the choice, chose to buy a new "server" desktop and do file and printer sharing with Windows 95/98. It wasn't as safe or as reliable, not by a long shot, but it was cheap and did the job. By the time NT became "a thing", it was really just a way of corralling those workstation servers into yet another new box, and giving fancier access rights to the files and printers. But by then, the company had been off of Netware for several years and didn't miss it - if anyone there even remembered they had been on Netware at all.

    Shame, as I still really like Netware 6.5. For simple file sharing, eDirectory is tough to beat. But I despise that atrocity known as OES2 on Linux. Why the fuck did Novell have to take away all of our CUI screens when they went to Linux? Come on guys, the console screen on a Groupwise POA or GWIA is very important when troubleshooting. It just is. And dsrepair just isn't the same without a menu system. Who the hell wants to have to remember all of those damn command line switches? Isn't that what we paid for - software that's easy to use? Apparently nobody at SuSE gave a damn about ncurses or any other way of generating user-friendly menus or screens. "Screw the old Netware guys, this is how we do it now!"

    So we are leaving Novell behind and going into Microsoft-land. Sad, as I spent a good deal of my career dealing with Netware servers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Netware's Dead?

      "Who the hell wants to have to remember all of those damn command line switches?" errmmmm Linux geeks do! Our local Linux geek just loves his command line, he'll battle with it even if its quicker and easier just to use a GUI!

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Stop

        Re: Netware's Dead?

        Yes, because selecting options and checkboxes in a GUI and reviewing the changes therein before submission is daft.

        The correct approach is to type in a 200-odd character string, of which only part is visible on screen at any one time. Said string to be littered with switches and arguments, any mistake in which can result in something nasty happening.

        "Quicker and easier" usually goes hand in hand with "more prone to cockups".

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Netware's Dead?

          The correct approach is to type in a 200-odd character string, of which only part is visible on screen at any one time. Said string to be littered with switches and arguments, any mistake in which can result in something nasty happening.

          The correct approach is to store that character string in a file, so it's recorded, repeatable, and editable; and if you have any sense at all, version-controlled. GUI input, on the other hand, is generally ephemeral.

  27. DrGoon

    History as experienced by the average forty-something IT boke?

    Novell's acendency didn't happen "before the Internet" nor was Novell the first widely available LAN technology. Novell's demise wasn't as a result of Windows NT 3.51. As others have noted, DOS-based Windows (as early as WfW 3.1) broke the Netware stranglehold in very many small office environments. Larger enterprises were already using either SNA or TCP/IP and were paying dearly for the pleasure on PC systems. Novell's primary failure was a blinkered desire to move into the lucrative enterprise systems market while failing to acknowledge that their balance sheet depended on the small office environment that they dominated. Like most companies in the PC world, they also failed to capitalise on the growth of the Internet among small business users. Not a bad article overall, but perhaps a little subjective.

    1. Alan Esworthy

      Re: History as experienced by the average forty-something IT boke?

      @DrGoon - "As others have noted, DOS-based Windows (as early as WfW 3.1) broke the Netware stranglehold in very many small office environments."

      Yes, indeed. Also note non-Windows DOS machines benefited from file and printer sharing by means of the Workgroup Add-on for MS-DOS. Very handy, that, for (at that time) legacy non-Windows applications.

      And come on, fellow geeks, the term ABEND is still alive and well in z/OS mainframe shops, Note I say the TERM is alive and well as z/OS shops don't really tend to see many abnormal terminations, at least not like a few decades ago. (Hmm. I'm 64. I wonder what age percentile that puts me in amongst El Reg readers?)

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: History as experienced by the average forty-something IT boke?

      For that matter, the claim that file sharing wasn't an obvious idea in 1983 is rather ridiculous. It goes back at least to the '60s and ITS. But the Reg has never put much effort into ensuring the technical or historical accuracy of their articles; some of the writers are good about doing their research, others not so much.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something that no one has mentioned were the certifications. As I recall in the CNA you had to perform actual tasks in a Novell simulator, I remember being a bit snobbish about the MS exams that were multiple guess brain dumps in comparison.

    Back in 1996 a City & Guilds in hardware and a Certified Novell Administrator landed me my first tech job in the City. I doubt that you can get in as cheaply or easily these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The simulator came later, around Netware 486/Intranetware era if I remember, one of the things I always liked about Novell is that their training materials were clear and understandable and the questions were straightforward, Microsoft by comparison were very fond of sneaky double negatives in their questions, I started doing the exams for NT4 but got so frustrated by this and Microsoft's habit of using 5 administrative utilities where one would do that I turned my back on Microsoft and used an up and coming young O/S Linux to learn UNIX (Yeah yeah, they aren't the same, it still gave me the basic knowledge to cope on Solaris, HP, IRIX and BSD)

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    IIRC IPX/SPX didn't scale very well, whereas TCP/IP did. I remember routers having to be configured for IPX/SPX and it was all broadcast, very chatty, just what you need for a network protocol lol.

    Doom LANs with ipxspx - those were the days indeed.

    1. Getriebe

      IPX/SPX didn't scale very well, whereas TCP/IP did

      @teelamma - this, and of course routing with IP and bridging with IPX. Ok for small but anything decent fail.

      And the Doom lans! I built a sepratae lan for doom made of mother boards pinned to the desk dividers and bits of string so the techs and devs could play after work. Happy as pigs in shit.

  30. John F***ing Stepp

    One of the (other things) that killed off netware.

    Larger hard drives.

    It took 2 or 3 days to compsurf a 20 megabyte drive; suddenly, you had a 200 megabyte monster available and the customer wanted it. Novell tryed to soldier on with something called a hotfix and in some cases this worked. In the case of the machines I worked on the supplier sold us hard drives that were crap (company is still around and probably still crap but I don't feel the need to be sued.)

    I would end up increasing the hotfix area every week as more and more sectors were going bad, eventually the customer converted over to a windows net work which had no problem working with crappy hard drives.

    In a perfect world (hard drive wise) Novell would still be king.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SQLBase

    One of the ways we used to use NetWare was for database hosting.

    IIRC, we used GUPTA SQLBase loaded onto the 3.12 server as an NLM.

    You connected using IPX/SPX from Windows clients running applications that we wrote in SQLWindows.

    Wow, that's brought back some interesting memories.

  32. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Being a NetWare admin, there are several things I think that killed NetWare. Firstly, they didn't embrace TCP/IP properly until NW5, and then not everything/one really embraced it.

    Then there were the management tools. It seemed like a different one each day: NWAdmin (16 bit), NWAdmin (32 bit), ConslowOne, iMangler, etc. Each had different plug-ins for apps. You had to keep them all lying around as each one could only do one little bit.

    The final nail in the coffin (and it's a big nail), was Microsoft's marketing department. Microsoft had a marketing department, threw money at it and used it well. Novell didn't.

    I look back fondly at the stuff that NetWare & NDS could do. OES/Linux could have been a saviour for Novell, but it was too little too late.

    1. Anthony Shortland

      You forgot netadmin for dos!

      1. nichomach
        Joke

        He didn't just forget it...

        ...the trauma erased it from his memory!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I remember that when MS-DOS 5.0 came out (most of the new features of which were copied directly from DR-DOS, an up-and-coming competitor at the time), it was noted that Microsoft had only two (just two!) developers working on MS-DOS at that point, even though it was still a core product installed on millions of PCs. Meanwhile, they had hundreds (maybe thousands) of employees working in marketing and such, plus the ones working at Microsoft's captive PR machine - the people charged with the responsibility of promulgating the idea of "Bill Gates - Super-genius!" (or these days, "Bill Gates - Super-philantropist!") BG himself, on the other hand, was busy running around the world doing what he has always done best - twisting arms; making subtle (and not-so-subtle) threats; handing out bribes (read: advertising dollars and so on); buying, stealing, or sabotaging (as required) other's products; and a bit later on (at the beginning of the Internet era) "knifing babies".

  33. Servman

    What do you mean WAS?

    I still have clients running NetWare 6.5... still fast and stable. Many others are running OES on Linux. eDirectory is still way better than Active Directory.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    the world did not begin with Linux

    It had a big daddy forebear: Unix. I think the word did get use once, in passing, in the article, but it might be that while the author was waiting for Linux to get born, the rest of us were running file and printer services for PCs on Unix systems.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NetWare couldn't compete?

    Novell: Microsoft refused to fix bugs (PX02350)

    Novell to Microsoft: help MAPI has stopped working (PX02365)

    Making Microsoft MAPI not work with GroupWise (PX02685)

    Microsoft's Allchin: we need to slaughter Novell (Exhibit PX00948)

    Novell: where have the header files gone (PX02369)

    The way to shut out Novell in the base is to either ship a full client or make it so there is no network connectivity.

    Yet more undocumented API calls (PX02667)

    Making Outlook not work with GroupWise (PX02921)

    NDS lies propagated by Microsoft (PX02913)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NetWare couldn't compete?

      I don't know if any of these documents specifically covers that time frame, but at one point I was working with NetWare 2.x.. After some initial hiccups and technical issues, everything worked well and things were remarkably stable and trouble-free for quite a while. Then Microsoft came out with an "upgrade" to MS-DOS, and the NetWare drivers (which hadn't changed) all of a sudden became remarkably UNSTABLE, with completely random and impossible to troubleshoot (I tried) client crashes. Novell pointed the finger of blame at Microsoft, Microsoft pointed the finger back at Novell, and they went back-and-forth like this for months on end. Eventually the problem was resolved; I don't remember the details, but if history is any guide then this was yet another case of Microsoft sabotaging a competitor's product because they were trying to take over their market..

  36. Mark Dempster

    The REAL reason that NT killed Netware...

    ...was that it was so easy to run it without buying expensive licences. Netware user counts were strictly controlled by licenses installed from floppy (similar to the CALs that SBS used to use), and if you had a 50 user licence then the 51st person would be refused login. With NT, on the other hand, you could buy the basic 5-user package and run as many users as your hardware could handle. Made it much cheaper if you didn't mind the illegality of it, and back then most companies didn't. I've always thought that it was a deliberate MS ploy to remove Netware market share even at the expense of licensing revenue.

    1. Fred Goldstein

      Re: The REAL reason that NT killed Netware...

      Yes that was the killer!

      NT offered a flat-rate pricing opiton. Pay what, about two grand per server? And it didn't count seats. Netware always sold seats via server licensing. Now an NT server might have been less efficient, but it sounded like a good deal. So it won on price, especially for users who had a lot of users that didn't put much load on the server. And with local hard drives growing, file and print server loads weren't always that high.

  37. gwcheck

    great article

    I keep my NetWare 5.1 in VMWare and the only thing I pity is that GroupWise now swittches to 64 bit, after already leaving NetWare with GW 2012.

    There was a joke by Novell when they introduced WordPerfect on JAVA and said that now they had a serve that could pretend to be a workstation where others were selling workstations pretending to be a server

    G

  38. MJI Silver badge

    Printing with Windows network = nightmare

    I had to write a standalone printer handler, Netware was easy I had a library, then of course I could also use capture.

    Windows - 3 printers only from DOS.

    What a mess

    We also had high uptime customers

  39. Muskiier

    From my angle it was arrogance that really killed Netware

    Interesting take on the story Netware's decline. Way back, I used to support small businesses running Netware, Netware Lite, and LANtastic. All were good fits for different sizes and needs. But, they were all an additional cost and support and licensing was a horrid pain. Digging through paper to find authorization codes, faxing licensing forms back and forth, waiting for days for a keycode to get a server or workgroup back up and running - you know the scene. Calling Novell and - if you could even talk to anyone - paying for support to find out it was a known bug or begging for help when you couldn't find your license documentation or, worse yet, having to phone the exalted Novell Engineer who installed the mess only to let him or her blame everything that was wrong on you. Configuration - archaic. I'm pretty sure I remember having to input IP addresses in hex in some version of Netware back in the 90's. Then, along came Windows for Workgroups and NT 3.x. Lacking some functionality, but out of the box, close enough considering the ease of implementation and Microsoft support and documentation was very good - compared to everyone else. Once the Internet was available, MS really understood how to deliver free support on line. Novell still wanted your money. Plus, you could actually sometimes walk the tech-savvy client through a MS client or server fix on the phone. That was possible sometimes with Netware, but rarely. Yes, a Netware server could stay up and running for weeks, even months sometimes. But, a tuned up NT box could come pretty close for way cheaper. Another killer was that it was very difficult to resell Novell unless you had thousands of dollars and lots of time to buy a Novell certification. So, even if you knew what you were doing you would have to hook up with a Novell person who, if the opportunity seemed lucrative enough, scoop your client. All you needed to get MS products was an account with a distributor and the brains to put it into place. The other side of all this is that, yes, anybody's inlaw could then install a network. But, I'm not sure either that there weren't a lot of "paper" Novell experts back in the olden days who made some equally bad messes.

  40. Mort
    Meh

    NC-SNIPES

    Many a night after work was spent playing NC-SNIPES. Each game round had a Mars bar as a standard bet for the winner. I dare say learning how to bounce shots at angles around corners is what made me the snooker player I was (back then at least).

    Oh yeah, and it also did file and print sharing stuff as well, for months on end without ever needing a reboot...

  41. ARCANE

    Another thing Novell gave Microsoft - BSOD

    Except the ABEND being laughed about here cause a BLACK screen of death and not a BLUE one.

    Also anyone remember the key combo to get into the debugger. Needed 3 arms if memory serves :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another thing Novell gave Microsoft - BSOD

      Shift, Shift, Alt, Esc

      http://support.novell.com/techcenter/tips/ant20030704.html

      Used it a lot but it's been 13 years since I last supported Netware so cheated and Googled :)

      liked this comment: "This four-key combination is tenderly know as the Novell Four-Finger Salute!"

    2. Oomska
      Pint

      Re: Another thing Novell gave Microsoft - BSOD

      shift+shift+ALT+ESC ;-)

      Loved this trip down memory lane and all the comments..

      P.s. What ever happened to liteyear?

  42. HipposRule

    eDir

    Still a lot cheaper, we use it for 25000 users (with a high turnover rate) as AD costs are absolutely prohibitive for that.

  43. ecarlseen

    Lots of plusses and minuses to Netware - anyone else remember having to run DSREPAIR as a part of regularly scheduled maintenance? On the other hand, I also remember plenty of 1000+ day uptimes, and an instance where we actually physically lost a server that had been up without issue for something ridiculous like 6 or 7 years. We actually had to trace the wiring through a few buildings to find the back of the closet it had been stuffed into...

  44. John O'Grady

    As a former CNE (Certified Netware Engineer), what I remember the most was Microsoft claiming that its Active Directory Services were superior to NDS - a full YEAR before Active Directory was even released! I had worked for a small company at the time and I certainly do not remember NDS being any kind of problem because that company was small. I had a tree set up in about an hour or two, with rights assigned to just about everyone. Yes, not having anything more than a command line on the server was bad, but was eventually fixed. When that company gave into the MS crap and switched to NT 3.51, they went from one Novel server to five NT servers, which they had to reboot almost every day because, you know, Microsoft. And they still had to keep the Novel server around for years because Active Directory sucked forever before it matured slightly and was actually useful for anything beyond a few users.

  45. Gartal

    My memory of the time is of several things that killed Novell.

    Ray Norda was dick. There was a pissing competition between Norda, Gates, McNeally and Phillip Kahn of Borland. Norda was annoyed because the others were doing really really well with applications and all Novell had to offer was a NOS which before 3.12, a pain to deal with.

    Norda decided that he had to have applications and so bought Word Perfect, fucked that and sold it to Corel. Copping a load of shit because he relied on MS-DOS, they decided to use DR-DOS as the boot loader. He fucked that and then bought UNIX. Then fucked that.

    MS contribution was not really NT, at least not until 3.51. Their real insight was to release Windows for Workgroups which gave all of those small (sub 20 users) businesses a "Server" or at least a data repository which could be backed up and preserve all of that data that no-one cares about any more. NT 3.1 was as stated too immature and too expensive. There also wasn't all that much technical support for it nor were there drivers for anything you would want to use. A good number of NIC vendors did not support TCP/IP on their products or they supported TCP/P and not NETBEUI. You had to reboot for any change to the network, drivers were not re-entrant.

    I ran NT 3.51 on my trusty dusty 486 DX 100 with a 500MB Barracuda connected to an Adaptec 2940 and it fairly flew. Then I ran it on a DEC-ALPHA 150 and couldn't believe the difference.

    Novell 4.1 was I suppose really really good. Telstra had over a 1000 Novell 3.12 servers and it took an hour to discover them all and then you couldn't view or manage them reliably. 4.1 sorted that out to a degree but then Telstra decided that there was better money to be made by partnering with MS and they eventually replaced all of their Novell servers with NT, domains and all.

    I found 4.1 so different it would have taken a big investment in time to learn it thoroughly. Like many others, I already knew DOS and Windows back to front and customers could see the appeal of having the same interface so we just let Novell die as far as we were concerned.

    *NIX was a clusterfuck. Just like Linux now, there were so many implementations of it, all having different versions of X11 or their own windowing system that SCO, UNIX, SUN, Ultrix, Minix, Silicon Graphics, IBM (to a lesser extent) HP et al were gibbering about the onslaught of Windows. Another thing that prevented *NIX from taking hold was hardware. Everyone wanted to sell their own hardware to run their (N)OS and applications. In 1994 You could buy three or four PCs, a length of COAX hose, four NE2000s and Windows for Warehouses for the cost of a single SUN workstation. Three out of four BIOSes were incompatible with NFS on PCs and a BIOS upgrade meant dialing into something like CompuServe with a 2400 BAUD modem, downloading a BIN file, scrabbling around to find the right EPROM, buying an EPROM burner and setting fire to a goat.

    Just about everyone in the world wanted to run word processors, graphics programs, spread sheets and databases. Companies did not want to train (what has changed) people on different system, did not want to have all of the licensing problems that went with *NIX.

    MS supplied it's resellers with posters bragging about the 10,000,000th copy sold. None of the other vendors could come close to that.

    In the end Novell got rid of Norda and not before time and not before he had run through just about all of Novell's cash. They seemed to do everything second rate(except for NDS). Gropewise was frankly dreadful. Perfect Office was too little to late as Corel found out, using UNIX just killed off most of their technical support.

    People in large corporations seem to see the world according to themselves forgetting that for every corporation with 1000+ bums on seats, there are 2000 small business under 100 BOS needing to similar things and Novell was too expensive to buy and more expensive to maintain than WFW and latterly NT. Norda forgot to take his pills and got a bit like Randy in South Park about his dick size. As we all know, it is not the size that counts, it is how you use it. Norda used his tooth pick to fuck the guts out of Novell.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      re wordperfect

      I believe Novell are currently in court with MS in the US on the belief that MS deliberatly screwed novell over on WordPerfect - check out Groklaw if you want to be appalled.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those were the days

    Good to see Edon is back commenting, though as an AC now :( . .

    Anyhow, this article reminds me of time with a Big Telecoms company. They had just begun installing NT3.5 to run early Exchange having previously run Courier Mail, which morphed into Microsoft Mail (I recall our local IT admin of everything debugging MS Mail code to make it work across multiple sites and larger numbers of users at each site - I don't think MS liked it but they took the code and used it).

    NT was adopted under pressure from well up the tree. Those responsible for running the new kit had little say. Promises of more, cheaper, faster, and result, less, more expensively (three times as much support required to get the same up time.

    Around the same time, I was sitting in the lobby at a clients offices waiting to be collected for a meeting. Sat next to me was a Natwest fella, and we got chatting as you do. He was grumbling about how Natwest's cashpoint system had gone titsup over the weekend (nothing changes) and how f*cked off everyone was with the NT servers they'd been flogged, after a massive, high pressure sales push, right up to board level. Assurances right from the top that MS would make it all work much better, cheaper and more reliable.

    Anyhow, not long after the shiny new system went live, it all went horribly wrong. Natwest chariman ended up making a person to person call to Bill Gates office, demanding that MS engineers come over immediately (this is Sunday night) and sort the crap out. They did actually.

  47. Dexter

    One nifty feature of Netware, which I always wish had made it into Linux, was the extension of the '.' and '..' system, so you could type '...' to go up two levels instead of '../..'.

    It was a small thing, but it was nice.

    Netware also had pretty heavily optimised disk access with head elevator seeking and all that jazz.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      One nifty feature of Netware, which I always wish had made it into Linux, was the extension of the '.' and '..' system, so you could type '...' to go up two levels instead of '../..'.

      It'd be trivial to add that to your Linux shell of choice - they're all open-source.

      For that matter, it could be done with a function+alias in most of the Bourne-derived shells, like bash or pdksh:

      function novelcd {

      case $1 in

      (...*) cnt=$(( ${#foo}-1 )); while (( cnt-- )); do cd ..; done ;;

      (*) cd "$1"

      esac

      }

      alias cd=novelcd

      Untested, but it should be close. If the argument to cd begins with "...", check how long it is, and do "cd .." one minus length times. (Note that I'm not using bash's numeric-for built-in because AFAIK it's not in pdksh and some other Bourne-derived shells.) There are other ways of doing this, of course, like building a single cd argument with all the necessary "../" components and cd'ing once.

  48. earlwer

    Record locking. Novell allowed parts of a file (records) to be locked. At the time, no-one else had that feature and it was a huge advantage for some databases.

    Even today, I still support a few Novell 4/5 servers which are still running.

    When it came to databases, Microsoft gave you 2 choices. Fast or correct. Correct was rarely used since it was slow and meant disabling all the write caching. Novell still ran much faster than an equivalent Windows Server. Then Novell broke the record locking with their flakey client connectors.

  49. algorithm&blues

    The ABEND

    Admittedly my Netware exposure only started from 6 onwards, but I was a very big fan of the ABEND - whereas an MS box would BSOD and cause outage, an ABEND on Netware, especially in something like BorderManager (oh, the mercy!) would most of the time allow us to "limp on one leg" through to the end of the working day, where a proper scheduled restart could take place.

    Saved me a massive amount of management trouble, especially as the previous support people had massively unbalanced their BorderManager set up (4000 users going through one server, 20 through another, and 5 through the last one)

  50. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    How many people can seriously state that a windows server doesn't need a regular reboot? I had 3.11 servers running in an educational environment for 18months ... covered in dust in a corner but as reliable as a reliable thing, quick, and easy and only taken down for hardware upgrade.

    My best memory of 3.11 was working out how, what and why I had developed a 'running synthetic time' warning on my first server and having to explain what it was and why it was important to the dumbfounded "network specialists".

    Oh, and thanks for reminding me about nsnipes!

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