The network operating system maker is blessed with dominant market share in local area networks (LAN) for its NetWare--now renamed IntranetWare--platform software and strong network services technology. But the company has also had trouble fighting the perception that it promotes proprietary software and, until recently, that it has been slow to adopt Internet standards in its products.
This year's conference also marks the first Novell gathering since former CEO Robert Frankenberg resigned from his post under a dark cloud last August. The company has found no successor, though numerous press reports have indicated that a hiring could be imminent. Novell officials have said they would not sit on their choice for CEO until the BrainShare '97 conference if a suitable candidate were to be found beforehand.
In recent months, the company has made a series of major moves in two areas: adding or planning support for Java throughout its product line and offering its Novell Directory Services (NDS) to third parties for free. That focus will continue at next week's conference.
Novell will devote an entire day to Java next week, releasing an early-access implementation of the recently announced Java Naming and Directory Interface (JNDI) for developers, pledging support for the Java Beans component technology, and offering developers the latest version of the Java Software Developer's Kit on the Novell platform. Support for the Java Virtual Machine is also a planned component of "Moab," the next release of the IntranetWare platform, according to company officials.
"We view Java as a platform that helps tie together the industry," said Patrick Harr, the Java product marketing manager for Novell.
The company's push to make NDS the de facto standard directory in the industry will continue as well, with announcements planned for the concept of Border Services--add-on software features for IntranetWare and NDS that take advantage of the directory's synchronization features.
"You see everybody kind of feeling their way for a center and in that way NDS has a role to play," said Jean Bozman, analyst for market researcher International Data Corporation.
A directory is a software platform that acts like a central address book for all network resources, providing administrators with a single point to keep track of applications and network access. Novell has released NDS source code free to third parties such as Hewlett-Packard, the Santa Cruz Operation, and Sun Microsystems. Border Services will include a proxy caching technology, security services, and support for virtual private networks, which connect workgroups spread out over multiple LANs virtually.
Novell is also expected to announce an expanded partnership with Netscape Communications, adding support for its SuiteSpot Web server to IntranetWare. The alignment of the two companies may be an important step as the duo vies for the same customers as arch-rival Microsoft.
Novell officials will also reveal more detailed plans to migrate users from its proprietary IPX network communications protocol to IP, the primary protocol of the Web, according to sources. Further details regarding Web-based management functionality and use of Java applets in the ManageWise platform will also be announced.
Novell officials will also provide developers with the Clustering Interconnect Protocol (CICP), a key feature of Novell's clustering software initiative, currently code-named Wolf Mountain.