"No, for ages Novell was way better and easier to administer than NT, early Active Directory, and Domains before it were a joke, and who can remember the ritual of restarting NT servers at regular intervals to get around memory leaks?"
I have to disagree there, although being a former Novell netware administrator myself I'll easily admit that Netware had many advantages. But it wasn't better "by design".
Example; (re)configuring your server. As you said; lets talk Netware Directory Services ("NDS") vs. Active Directory ("AD"). On Windows I was able to use a client environment to connect to my server console to perform specific administrative task, even then. Although with NT 4 the 'terminal service' was more or less a separated feature.
But there was more... The Microsoft Management Console; a management protocol which allowed you to truly perform remote administrative tasks. You didn't need to gain access to the server console; as long as you got a connection to the server itself. Then mmc.exe could contact the server and perform its administrative tasks. This even holds true today (obviously).
And even then NT had already options which allowed you to divide tasks between an administrative team. You could assign rights; preventing your PFY from accidentally resetting your server (which, lets be honest; was likely bound to happen anyway, but the fact still remains).
With Netware the only option you had to administer your NDS was to go to the server itself in order to work behind the console, just like with so many other tasks. Dozens of administrative tasks required you to sit behind the server console because you needed a specific NLM for the task. Now, granted, you had rconsole & remote.nlm which allowed remote access to the server console (just like NT could).
But here's the problem: it had no options to differentiate between administrators. Only one password stood between you and the server console. So even your PFY could easily mess things up to extreme heights when he had access.
They managed to overcome some of it by developing client tools which could also run on Windows (and thus also provide a graphical environment, something which NDS required at one point; no more commandline management tools). But by doing so they made it all the more appealing to move to a Windows server as well. After all; if you already required a Windows client to administer a server...
Don't get me wrong though; Netware had many strong points in comparison to Windows NT. But it wasn't better by design, not as you make it sound anyway.