Even with its Web emphasis, the new version of NetWare appears unlikely to stem the operating system's eroding market share that has resulted from its pounding from Windows, users and analysts said.
Novell officials said last week that NetWare 5.1 will be available in mid-January at prices starting at $95 per node. The software will include a variety of Web application software, including Oracle's 8i database and IBM's WebSphere application server and a Java virtual machine.
Some analysts have said the package is Novell's best attempt yet to make NetWare an application platform.
But while NetWare users respect the technology, some say they won't adopt it.
"I kind of feel sorry for Novell," said Allan Klein, director of PC LAN services at SuperValu, a food distributor in Minneapolis.
But SuperValu's information technology budget includes money to begin a migration from NetWare to Microsoft's Windows 2000 next year. The company will upgrade its NetWare servers to Version 5.0 but will use it only until Windows 2000 is ready to take over, he said.
"Our view of NetWare right now is very short term," Klein said.
Even now that Novell provides full integration with Java and Web development tools, there is still no compelling reason to use NetWare rather than other platforms that run the tools, said analyst Dan Kusnetzky at International Data Corp (IDC).
An IDC study of 417 NetWare users in February found that while one in five would use it as a Web server by 2001, the same proportion would replace at least one of their NetWare servers, usually with Windows.
The future of NetWare at Compass Bancshares, may be up in the air, said senior network administrator Chris McGuire. The company's investment in Novell's NetWare, Novell Directory Services and ZenWorks PC management tool is heavy enough for use of the software to survive in the organisation, he said. But Windows NT, despite its security flaws, will likely remain a strong contender for application serving.
At least in certain places, NetWare 5.1 is sure to play an application server role. Andy Kiolbasa, who manages information technology in two divisions at ITT Industries, said the NetWare servers in about 100 of the company's field offices will be able to host applications when they're upgraded to NetWare 5.1.
But according to Gartner Group, sales of Windows NT and 2000 will grow from $6.7 billion in 1998 to $21.8 billion in 2004, while NetWare will ebb from $3.2 billion to $1.2 billion.