Novell has been able to defend its position in the network operating system market with its "back to the future" policy of focusing on its core networking competency, according to company head Bob Frankenberg.
Combining its core competency in networking with Internet tools should put the company in a strong position as users develop their Internet strategies, Frankenberg says, sounding a familiar refrain here at the opening session of BrainShare Europe 96 user conference.
Novell accounted for more that half of all network operating system sales for servers in 1995, according to Frankenberg.
"It took us some time and some pain to return to that [networking] focus, and leave the development [of] Unix and personal productivity applications to companies dedicated to those market segments," says Frankenberg.
In 1995, Novell sold US$2 billion in software, selling 817,000 NetWare Servers and expanding the base of NetWare users to 55 million people, according to Frankenberg.
Novell has 63% of the network operating system market and NetWare 4.x sales grew by more than 400% last year, he says. Meanwhile, the installed base of GroupWise grew by 2.5 million users to 5.5 million users.
Sales of ManageWise, the company's network-management platform, grew by 300% to become the number-one network manager worldwide, Frankenberg claims.
However, the focus of Frankenberg's speech was, of course, the Internet -- just as it was at BrainShare in the US recently.
"Novell has waited a long time for the network to become the centre of computing," he says. "Our expertise is in file and print servers and when you think about it Web servers are actually file and print servers," he says.
The Novell Web Server is up to four times faster that a Windows NT Web server, Frankenberg claims.
However, some users note that NT and Novell Web servers are really designed to do different jobs. "It's not really a case of NetWare or Windows NT, but more NetWare and NT," says Rudi Kleinman, training manager for AKAM Education BV, an Amsterdam-based computer training company.
"NetWare is used more for file and print and NT is emerging for application-type servers. However, neither are having any real impact in the groupware market segment where Lotus Notes is still the most popular," Kleinman says.
Referring to Novell's decision to rewrite NetWare Web Server tools in Java, Frankenberg says that the arrangement between Sun and Novell is a "marriage made in heaven". Anybody who writes an application in Java is writing a NetWare application, "in the same way as anyone who wrote an application in DOS was writing a NetWare application," he says.
"The difference between our past as masters of file and print and our future is the ability to integrate the best Internet technology -- such as Sun's Java and Netscape's browser with our directory services, security, and management," Frankenberg says.
Novell will now focus on small business, large distributed computing environments and Internet-related network computing.
"The small-business users need applications that are plug and work not plug and play," he says.