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Novell lets NT in

Novell makes an important concession with the release of two tools that integrate Microsoft's Windows NT with Novell's NetWare.

Novell (NOVL) is so eager to come up with a new business model that it's even willing to make concessions to its No. 1 rival, Microsoft, and its Windows NT operating system.

With its NetWare network operating system rapidly losing ground to NT Server, Novell is trying to implement a new strategy of breaking off the most popular parts of its OS and licensing them to vendors that use server environments.

The company's crown jewel is its Novell Directory Services, a sort of address book for all users and objects attached to the network and Novell's primary technological advantage over Microsoft. Novell wants desperately for all network administrators, even NT users, to rely on NDS.

As part of an effort to rapidly embrace the growing number of networks based on Windows NT, the Orem, Utah-based firm has released two tools--Novell Administrator for Windows NT and Novell Workstation Manager--to integrate the popular platform with Novell's network operating system services.

The two tools play an important role in Novell's continuing efforts to open up its technology to as many platforms as possible. Analysts have said the company needs to act quickly on this strategy to remain relevant in its core market: corporate local area networks.

"What Novell needs to do is offer NDS to people who don't have NetWare," said Jon Oltsik, an analyst with the Forrester Research consultancy. "They're making the right moves to a limited degree. I don't think they've made any progress on the market side."

Novell Administrator for Windows NT works as a plug-in to Novell's NetWare Administrator, the management interface that governs NDS. The Novell Administrator for Windows NT is integrated with the NDS database so that Windows NT users and groups become part of NDS, unifying NetWare and NT networks behind one administrative console.

The Novell Workstation Manager is a component of the IntranetWare Client for Windows NT, a renamed bundle that includes the NetWare operating system. An administrator can use the tool to configure a Windows NT desktop through NDS, without the need for any manual oversight. Users can also securely log on their desktop from any computer on the network.

In the '80s and early '90s, NetWare was the king of the corporate LAN. But corporate sites are now flocking to Windows NT in droves, according to Oltsik, and increasingly buying NetWare servers only as a tactical purchase for specific functions, such as file and print services.

Although big Unix players such as Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, and the Santa Cruz Operation have embraced NDS, Oltsik said his discussions with corporate users have led him to conclude that customers aren't that interested yet. "Novell needs to create demand at the customer level," he said.