Novell brainstorms at BrainShare

At its annual user conference in Salt Lake City in March, Novell Inc. made it clear that a lot of changes were on the horizon – including adaptations to some of the company’s core products.

While BrainShare was a stage for many announcements – such as the firm’s vow to improve its marketing – for existing users, the most vital information involved the company’s outline for the future of its NetWare and eDirectory products.

NetWare remains an important part of the company’s product line and will move towards enabling Web services, according to Novell, which announced the next three generations of the product at the conference.

The first of those three will launch in the beginning of next year, and is code-named Nakoma. This version will offer support for Web services standards such as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), and will add support for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE). Along with the open standards, Novell says the product will feature zero-cost deployment and will focus on consolidation. The release following that, code-named Hayden, will launch in the latter part of next year, and will focus on blade servers, while the final release, named Uinta, will focus on self-healing and self-configuring environments. Uinta is scheduled for release in 2004.

Despite the fancy upgrades and features in the current NetWare 6.0, such as iPrint and iFolder, and the promise of things to come in versions to follow, at least one Novell customer said he plans to stay with the version of NetWare he has. Jay Barrette, the Novell network administrator at COM DEV International Ltd. in Cambridge, Ont., attended BrainShare for the first time this year, although he has been a customer for almost 10 years. His company, a producer of wireless infrastructure and designer and manufacturer of space hardware subsystems, currently uses NetWare 5.1.

“From what I can see right now, it is a little premature for us because, while [Novell] is moving in the right direction, the product’s not quite to the point where I think I would entertain going to that environment,” Barrette explained. “So it’s something that we’re watching with interest but right now we’re still kind of stuck with the client because that’s where we have to be to get the functionality we need. But if they can evolve the product so that the missing pieces are filled in, it would be a lot more attractive….5.1 is servicing our needs, though.”

Meanwhile, the company also announced its plan to release version 8.7 of its eDirectory, which will also focus on enabling the push for Web services. This latest version will offer new features, including Web-based and wireless administration, developer tools and enhanced security. No official launch date has been set for the new version, which is available now in beta.

While the company’s push towards Web services is evident in its product announcements, there is one problem, according to one industry analyst.

“Our surveys show that end users don’t know what Web services are,” said Dan Kusnetzky, vice-president, systems software research at Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. “They don’t really even understand what a directory is. So [basing] a whole story on Web services is going to take some education. Novell is one of the first companies to do this. A One Net strategy – that’s basically a Web-services strategy. They were one of the first. And yet, if you ask people about Web strategies and Web-centric computing…they don’t even remember that Novell came out with it first.”