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Heavyweights prepare to slug it out in client/server arena.

It's the battle of the new titans on the block - Microsoft vs. Novell. It pits Microsoft's soon-to-be-announced Windows NT against Novell's NetWare and its recently acquired Unix capabilities.

At stake is control of the corporate desktop and network operating systems as they become integrated and unified in the migration to client/server computing.

Former powers IBM and Digital Equipment Corp. may still figure prominently in the outcome. For the moment, though, it appears they have effectively cleared out the ring so Microsoft and Novell can go head-to-head for the big score.

The battle has been anticipated for some time, ever since Microsoft announced Windows NT, indicating its intention to reach beyond its desktop roots into the world of enterprise computing. Novell responded last December by agreeing to acquire Unix Systems Labs (USL) from AT&T to strengthen its Unix arsenal.

AT&T created USL in 1991 by spinning off its Unix Software Operation unit and selling part of it to a number of investors, including Novell. One of its charters was to add a user-friendly interface to Unix, and improve administrative and other features, such as security. The result was Unix System V Release (SVR) 4.2.

USL and Novel also formed a company, called Univel, to integrate Netware technology into SVR4.2, creating a version known as UnixWare. Novell's USL acquisition gives it the freedom to further integrate Unix and Netware. It also gives users and software developers a clear indication of Novell's commitment to Unix, which had been questioned previously.

Novell claims, however, that it has no intention of fusing Netware and Unix into a single operating system Rather, it plans to promote Unix as a downsizing platform, while positioning NetWare as a platform for "upsizing", according to John Edwards, executive vice president of Novell's Desktop Systems Group.

Edwards notes that Unix is ideal for taking applications off the mainframe and putting them on a more economical server. He also points out that mainframe developers feel more at home with Unix than NetWare server applications. Novell believes that $50 billion worth of mainframe and mini-computer systems are candidates for downsizing to Unix networks.

NetWare, in contrast, is better suited for departments requiring a small PC LAN operating system, NetWare Lite, as a simple way to network small groups of people who have no need for a file server. NetWare 2.x and 3.x are intended for departmental servers, while the new NetWare 4.0 is designed for enterprise networks.

Among the features that equip NetWare 4.0 for enterprise computing are a global directory service, improved security, better throughput over wide area links and support for 1,000 workstations and 1,000 servers.

NetWare 4.0 requires users to log in only once to access all servers on the network. End-user authentication reduces the risk of unauthorized login. A global distributed database stores information on all network resources and creates a single, logical view of the entire NetWare network. Administrators at the central site can also back up all servers and transfer rarely used files to on-line archives, using data compression for more efficient storage.

Over 450 companies have committed to NetWare 4.0, representing more than 600 compatible products. Even so Novell acknowledges that user transition to the new operating system will be slow, primarily because of the distributed NetWare Directory Service, which calls for a different architecture and a whole new way of thinking.

For the remainder, Novell is planning to issue NetWare 3.12. The new release will not differ markedly from NetWare 3.11, but will incorporate the improved wide area networking capabilities of NetWare 4.0, along with improved security and better migration tools to help users upgrade from NetWare 2.x. Novell is presumably anxious to speed this migration to avoid having to support three generations of software.

Novell has also opened another front in its battle with Microsoft by announcing a major upgrade to DR DOS, which it inherited with its acquisition of Digital Research. Until now, DR DOS has been unable to capture more than 10 percent of the DOS market. However, Novell hopes to attract a broader range of users to the new release, known as Novell DOS 7, with such features as peer networking, improved memory management and multitasking - a first for DOS.

By the scope of its efforts, Novell implicitly acknowledges the competitive threat posed by Microsoft for its network computing turf. In fact, Novell's acquisition of USL suggests that the Provo, Utah firm fears that NetWare alone is no match for Windows NT and its successors.

It remains to be seen if Novell can now bring uniformity and user-friendliness to Unix, and achieve synergy with its flagship NetWare offerings.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT operating system, Novell Inc.'s NetWare network operating system
Author:Edwards, Morris
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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