* Posts by TommyMitch

1 post • joined 16 Jul 2013

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


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.



Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017