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Novell plugs price cuts, plans

The company uses its BrainShare conference to prove to the market that its role as a network software maker is still viable.

SALT LAKE CITY--Novell (NOVL) continues to make a variety of moves to prove to the market that its role as a network software maker is still viable.

The firm is fresh off the first day of a critical user conference that has predictably accentuated the positive. The company has announced more price cuts and plans for its directory services software, enhancements to important partnerships, and an update to its GroupWise email and collaboration software suite.

Novell executives continue to stress their focus on providing the software infrastructure so networks can run smoothly. Novell has wrapped much of its future around its directory services (NDS) software, which serves as a database for administrative information such as user access rights or hardware specifications, for example.

To capitalize on delays in the rollout of Active Directory, a key component of Microsoft's Windows NT 5.0 operating system upgrade due early next year, Novell has launched a version of NDS for NT that requires a NetWare server and redirects calls from an NT machine to the Novell software.

Seeing a wide window of opportunity, Novell announced an aggressive series of price cuts, dropping per-node prices for NDS for NT from $69 to $26 and offering an even greater discount of $16 per node through July.

"We really wanted to take advantage of the delays in NT," said Michael Simpson, director of marketing for Novell's network services division. "What better time to announce a change than right now."

A native implementation of NDS that will run on an NT server is scheduled to roll out in the second half of this year. That is the same time table for delivery of a native implementation for Sun Microsystems' Solaris Unix variant, the dominant operating system in the RISC-based computing market.

Novell also has deals in the works to offer redirection capabilities for other brands of Unix, such as IBM's AIX, Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX, and Santa Cruz Operation's UnixWare. Those are dependent on software development by the third party company, not Novell, Simpson said. They could also lead to native implementations that would be built by the Unix suppliers themselves, he said.

The AIX and an accompanying IBM OS 390 implementation will likely arrive in the second half of this year. Simpson refused to offer a timetable for the HP release.

"There's been a big lag in Unix shipments," noted Bob Sakakeeny, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group.

Novell will also announce the expansion of significant partnerships this week. The first, with Intel, covers support for the chip giant's forthcoming Merced 64-bit processor. A second, with Compaq Computer, will cover a bundling arrangement for the company's Netware for Small Business software package. Novell also announced plans to offer the Oracle8 database from Oracle and has partnered with Netscape Communications to port that company's Web servers to NetWare.

To spur development, the company also announced that Metrowerks CodeWarrior software development tool kit will be available for NetWare in the third quarter. Chris Stone, senior vice president of corporate strategy and development, noted that he wanted to change the current "dearth of tools" available for Novell application developers.

On the Java front, Novell has previously announced a partnership with WebLogic to provide that company's "Tengah" Java application server as the software framework for NetWare.

As previously reported, Novell rolled out an update to GroupWise, dubbed version 5.5, that adds a variety of enhancements, including expanded calendar functions and more advanced information indexing capabilities. Attendees of this week's BrainShare will receive a beta copy of the software with an open beta slated for an undetermined later date.