Microsoft's Windows NT Server will never truly compete with NetWare because the directory service in NetWare is more vital than the operating system functionality of NT, IS managers said during Novell's CIO Forum.
A sampling of users at the one-day event said they plan to stick with NetWare even if they have growing numbers of NT systems in their operations. NT may be able to handle the desktop applications, but it doesn't come close to offering the management of networks and directories of users that NDS (Novell Directory Services) does, they said.
Earlier at the CIO Forum, Novell's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt described NDS as the future for Novell and its customers, given that the directory service provides the necessary tools for network administrators to manage all the users and devices on a network
"The directory is much more important than the operating system," said Gene Doody, manager of global desktop services at Campbell Soup Co. in Camden, New Jersey. For NetWare 5, "Novell is taking the goods from NetWare 4 and combining them with core things from an operating system, such as pure IP (Internet Protocol), context-less log-in and password administration," Doody said.
Campbell Soup has 8,000 users on NetWare 3 and NetWare 4 worldwide and Doody said he is considering whether to migrate all of them to NetWare 5.0 or wait for a later version. "One of the things I'm concerned about is the stability of a brand new product," he said, adding that he had bug problems with an earlier first-version Novell migration.
However, context-less log-in, where a user can log in with only a name, and password administration are features that may persuade Doody to go with this first version of NetWare 5.
"We're looking at NDS as a solution more than we're looking at an operating system as a solution," he said. NT is a general purpose application whereas NetWare is a specialty application, he added. "The two products will co-exist for us very well together."
"NT is a good application operating system, but as a network operating system it doesn't compare to NetWare 4 or NetWare 5," agreed David Jones, managing director of the IS division at Scottish Power. The utility, based in Glasgow, Scotland, provides gas, electricity and water to customers throughout the U.K. and has 750,000 users, he said.
"We have some applications on NT and on AIX and Solaris, but NDS is the only way we can draw all of the end-users on the network together," Jones said.
Scottish Power is in the "throes" of moving to NetWare 5 and is expected to start the rollout next month and complete it before the end of the year, Jones said. The rollout is critical to Scottish Power which is operating under a highly competitive deregulated market and whose training and customer systems are setting a new standard for utilities, he added.
Jones pointed to three crucial features of NetWare 5: the ability to carry solely IP traffic rather than a mix of IP and IPX; enhanced manageability for NT and Unix systems and; increased security for Internet traffic. "The only thing we'd currently like is single sign-on" which would provide the ability to manage systems more cost effectively, he said. That feature should come within the next few months, Jones added.
Meanwhile, Montreal-based Banque Nationale is currently piloting a single sign-on application with NetWare 4 that it calls the "universal platform" that reduces the number of passwords users need to get to specialised legacy applications, said Richard Carter, senior vice president of research and product development for the bank.
The bank will likely move to NetWare 5 for its 5,000 users and 600 servers, Carter said. Banque Nationale recently redesigned its mortgage services with NetWare and is already seeing a payback because it pays less to access titles and conduct mortgage transactions from the government registry online than it does through regular paper methods, he said.
The bank uses NT for some specific applications such as outsourcing or reselling SAP AG enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to clients, according to Carter.
Carter's only question about NetWare had to do with its scalability. "Can I bring 100,000, 500,000, one million clients onto it?" he asked.
In response, a NetWare 5 product marketing manager, Brad Dew, said NetWare 5 supports up to 32 processors and can handle more end-users than NetWare 4 which operated with 3,000 to 4,000 users on one server.
Another Canadian NetWare customer, Maritime Telephone and Telegraph (MT&T) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been testing NetWare 5's scalability and is satisfied. "We needed to go to 100,000 users pretty quickly," said Monty Sharma, chief technology officer at MT&T. "NetWare is more scalable than anything else out there. With 10,000 users, NT cracks."
MT&T has 3,500 users on NetWare serving one million phone customers and 1,500 customers of its Web hosting and software-on-demand service, called MpoweredPC, according to Sharma. He said that by using NetWare 5 he expects to reduce by half his IT costs of maintaining MT&T's network and solving user problems.
Meanwhile, South Trust Bank, based in Birmingham, Alabama, deployed NetWare 5 into its existing NetWare 4 environment over the past month, said Patrick Southworth, a network analyst/project manager at the bank. But the bank still needs to keep NT because of certain applications it operates that don't run with NetWare, including Lotus Development Corp.'s Notes, which 4,000 employees use, he said.
"NT is key to us as far as client/server applications. NDS is our key to integrate the two," NT and NetWare, Southworth said. "There are some applications that don't run on NetWare 5. Until Novell entices those developers to write to NetWare 5, there's always going to be NT."
The catalyst for South Trust Bank moving to NetWare 5, however, is its pure IP which will enable the bank to publish its loan documents online throughout its 700 branches, Southworth said. "We're looking to synchronise the NDS tree with Notes' authentication and get a single sign-on solution," he added.
In addition, NT's domain authentication method does not scale and manage as easily as NDS, Southworth added. "That's why we're mainly a NetWare shop."
Novell, based in Provo, Utah, can be reached at +1-801-429-7000 or on the Web at http://www.novell.com/. Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or http://www.microsoft.com/.