Microsoft now plans to refuse technical support to any Windows NT customers who install Novell's Novell Directory Services (NDS) for NT — regardless of whether the problem actually lies with NDS.
For administrators running NT-only networks, the directive from Redmond is clear: Wait for Microsoft's forthcoming Active Directory if you need a comprehensive directory and want NT technical support.
Users with mixed NetWare-NT environments, however, have a harder choice to make: Either resign yourself to running different directories on each operating system, or install NDS for NT and hope that NT technical support is never needed.
For at least one user of a mixed NT and NetWare environment, the advantages of NDS for NT are not enough to sacrifice support for his NT systems.
"NDS for NT is something that was definitely in our plans," says Brian Jaffe, director of network and client services at Bantam Doubleday Dell, in New York, and a member of the InfoWorld Corporate Advisory Board. "We will now have to continue administering both network environments ourselves — the issue that this product was going to solve."
Microsoft revealed its new policy in a document on its Web site, and said that the policy was required for technical reasons. The company says it cannot support NDS for NT because NDS "replaces critical NT system DLLs associated with authentication and security."
Replacing these DLLs can render the system less reliable and secure, can ruin upgrades from Windows NT Server 4.0 to 5.0, and can prevent the application of NT service packs, according to the Microsoft statement.
However, Novell disputes this. Michael Simpson, Novell’s vice president of product marketing, says that Microsoft's intentions are more competitive than technical.
"Microsoft has gotten nervous at the success of NDS for NT and their fear has grown bigger than their concern for their customers," Simpson says.
Novell has issued a counter statement disputing Microsoft's claims.
"NDS for NT replaces only a single DLL (not two as Microsoft has indicated), and this DLL is not associated with NT authentication or security functions [as Microsoft claims]," the document says. Novell also denied that NDS for NT affects migration or the service-pack deployment.
"Novell has tested and verified that NDS for NT will function after a service pack update," according to Novell’s statement.
Novell also claims to have successfully tested an upgrade to the first beta version of NT Server 5.0 with NDS for NT.
Jaffe agrees with Simpson that Microsoft's actions are more political than technical.
"When you install NDS for NT, you replace one file on the NT Server, and Novell is certainly not the first third-party vendor to ever install its own DLL file," Jaffe says. "Needless to say, [Microsoft's] move is extreme."