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Novell mixes Net technology, NetWare

Novell this week moved to spread the use of technologies sprung from the Internet within enterprise IS shops by embracing two key Web-based technologies--Java and ActiveX--and announcing plans to combine them with NetWare.

Novell this week moved to spread the use of technologies sprung from the Internet within traditional enterprise IS shops by embracing two key Web-based technologies--Sun Microsystems' Java development language and Microsoft's ActiveX architecture--and announcing plans to combine them with its NetWare network operating system.

At its annual BrainShare conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Novell said it would include the Java Virtual Machine, the engine that interprets and runs Java applets, in its NetWare system sometime in 1996. This means that NetWare third-party developers will be able to create client-server applications in Java that will run on the more than 3 million NetWare servers already installed on LANs and WANs worldwide.

Until now, Java has been highlighted as a language for creating applets that animate content and provide functionality on Web browsers. But the licensing agreement provides a significant endorsement for a campaign recently kicked off by Sun and Netscape Communications to promote Java as a language for creating server-side applications as well as client applets. Sun and Netscape want developers to examine Java for use in projects now developed mostly with C or C++, the languages that have dominated the client-server market.

Toward that end, Netscape earlier this month announced that it will embed Java in its next generation of Web servers. Now, Novell's agreement with Sun allows developers of NetWare applications--called NetWare Loadable Modules--to use Java in their applications. For example, an NLM might use Java for database access.

"People think of Java as a client-side programming language, but it can be used anywhere," said Jon Kannegaard, chief operating office for Sun's JavaSoft unit. "Novell has a unique position in the market since they have that loyal following of NetWare users."

Novell also plans to integrate Java with its NetWare Directory Services, a global directory of systems and files stored on NetWare-based networks.

But the company didn't ignore Java's principal competitor, Microsoft's ActiveX controls, and will also allow developers to manage such OLE objects as ActiveX by using NDS.

The extension of NDS to Java and ActiveX is part of a broader push by Novell to make NDS a directory standard for the Internet, an initiative the company is calling Net2000. To promote Net2000, the company formed today the NetWare Connectivity Forum (NCF), a Novell-led consortium of technology companies charged with defining a common set of applications programming interfaces (APIs) for linking applications to NetWare.

As the third prong in its plan to refit NetWare for the Web, Novell announced this week that it is licensing electronic commerce software from Open Market to transform NetWare servers into platforms for electronic commerce. The company licensed OpenMarket's OM-SecureLink software for linking the existing NetWare Web servers to OpenMarket back office applications.

OM-SecureLink, which Novell will bundle with its Web server later this year, will allow the Web server to connect to OM-Transact, a sophisticated electronic commerce system that includes order processing, fulfillment, and credit-card authorization capabilities. OM-SecureLink will also allow NetWare Web servers to work with OM-Access, software for managing access to content on Web sites.

Novell's hope is that its inclusion of the OpenMarket technology will help NetWare take off as an Internet server platform. There are two Web servers available that run on NetWare, including Novell's own NetWare WebServer and American Internet's SiteBuilder, but so far the Internet market has ignored NetWare in favor of Unix and Windows NT.

According to analysts, however, Novell's Internet efforts may be stymied by its own core technology, which was never intended as a platform for running networked applications.

"[Novell] is really late to the Internet," said Rob Enderle, senior industry analyst at Giga Information Group, based in Santa Clara, California. "The problem they have now is the NetWare platform isn't an application-serving platform. They don't really have a multifunction server; they have a good file and print server. They need a lot of momentum, and this isn't it."

Related story:
Novell to brush up Net strategy