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Novell, Intel to serve Java

The network software maker outlines plans to build a next-generation "virtual machine" with Intel for delivering applications.

Network software maker Novell outlined plans to build a next-generation "virtual machine" based on the Java programming language with Intel, focused on fast delivery of server-side software applications.

The effort to create a new Java Virtual Machine (JVM) represents the latest push by Novell to embrace Java as a development platform for its NetWare server-based operating system. Code-named NetFire, the latest JVM will incorporate technology from chip giant Intel. The companies said the resulting JVM will adhere to the Java standards set by Sun Microsystems.

Novell is attempting to rejuvenate interest in writing software programs for its operating system by supporting Java. The company has rebounded from an extended period fraught with fiscal woes under the guidance of CEO Eric Schmidt, a former Java guru from Sun. The company continues to trumpet the benefits of writing applications that take advantage of its services, such as Novell Directory Services (NDS), a service for centralized administration of networks.

A JVM is a small, operating system-specific software layer that provides the base code that allows Java applications to be executed across multiple platforms. As long as software providers include a JVM, Java will be supported in their applications.

Intel is looking to push its various hardware components as the ideal basis for serving up Java-based applications, taking a typically neutral approach toward any competitive operating system battles. As part of the deal, Novell will receive a variety of development tools used to optimize software performance on Intel-based processors, including the forthcoming IA-64 chip architecture that will debut with the release of Merced.

"A closer relationship with Intel allows us to provide even better performance and scalability," said John Linney, director of strategic relations for Novell.

Schmidt, speaking at the PC Expo trade show in New York City today, said: "[Java] is the mechanism by which you can run things on any [desktop] platform, but it's more important to have interoperability across server platforms."

An initial JVM, hyped as the fastest in the world by the company, is set to debut as an integrated component of Novell's forthcoming NetWare 5.0 release, due to ship on schedule later this summer, according to executives.

The next-generation JVM will roll out next year, according to executives, and will likely be a component of a forthcoming NetWare upgrade, code-named Modesto, expected to coincide with the release of Intel's 64-bit Merced processors for high-end server systems, now delayed until 2000.

For Novell, offering a performance advantage could be a key factor in attracting new users and developers. Novell has bet on Java's "write once, run anywhere" promise to recapture developer support--an area where the company has experienced trouble in the past. The company also is hoping that with the growth of the Java language, there will be easy-to-use software development tools that can be used to create applications.

Novell's Java strategy also counters Microsoft's corporate operating system, Windows NT, which is touted by the software giant as a general-purpose application server. Novell is among several firms that are losing market share in the face of growing use of NT.

"Our message is NT is a general-purpose application server--NetWare is different," said Ed McGarr, vice president of product marketing for Novell. "We're saying we're a network server. No longer is it a binary decision.

"Between NetWare and NT, you're talking about an apple and an orange," he added. "Our success is not dependent on Microsoft's failure."

Novell executives have criticized Sun's server-side Java efforts in the past, noting the slow pace of Java standards for server-based application development.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.

Reporter Jim Davis contributed to this story.