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Novell woos high-end networks

Hoping to steal some thunder from a similar Microsoft event set for tomorrow, Novell unveils a toolset for high-end networks.

NEW YORK--Novell (NOVL) started its run for the border today.

Hoping to steal some thunder from a widely publicized event scheduled by Microsoft tomorrow, also in New York, Novell officially unveiled a long-discussed product suite called BorderManager.

Now set to ship by the third quarter, the product allows customers to manage incoming and outgoing traffic to and from the Internet and internal corporate intranets. It combines security, Web proxy caching, firewall, and virtual private networking capabilities in one tool set. The toolset was previously known as Border Services and debuted at Novell's annual BrainShare '97 user conference earlier this year.

As Microsoft prepares to make an aggressive advance on the market for enterprise networks that span hundreds or even thousands of locations, Novell is trying to redirect the attention of Fortune 500 companies back to its own plans for such high-end networks.

Microsoft is betting big on Windows NT as a server platform for this same set of customers and plans to highlight its plans with a "Scalability Day" for press and analysts scheduled for tomorrow.

Today's preemptive strike by Novell also reflects a renewed commitment to aggressive marketing now that former Sun Microsystems Java guru Eric Schmidt is at the helm as CEO.

With BorderManager, the company claims to be providing a service not available from anyone else. Pricing for Border Manager will be announced upon shipment of the product.

"We're the first company that integrates them fully together," noted Drew Major, chief scientist at Novell. "We're enriching the pipe. It's a new category of capabilities."

Other companies, such as firewall vendors or security software makers, provide specific components of BorderManager's functionality, but no one has offered a similar suite of combined tools. Most industry observers believe Novell is currently ahead of the pack in this area, but will soon be joined by a number of competitors.

The company still retains a lead in the market for network operating systems, according to 1996 numbers from market research firm International Data Corporation. But the company--once undisputed king of the LAN--is increasingly on the defensive against Microsoft's Windows NT. Novell long relied on the dominance of its NetWare flagship, but in an industry where the LAN is giving way to the intranet, the company is under pressure to come up with a new concept.

"Customers are buying a vision, they're buying a comprehensive strategy," said Dan Kusnetsky, director of Unix and client-server environments for IDC. "In the past, Novell has not been able to present one, partially because they did not have a powerful speaker and partially because their message and strategy has often been confused."

Novell stressed that scalability--the ability of a single server to handle a large number of PCs--is a combination of network services and operating system performance, two areas in which the company excels.

"I think Microsoft is talking about it because they have to," said Coleman Barney, senior director of marketing services for Novell's Information Access division. "We don't have to have a Scalability Day."

The company also announced that its Replication Services technology for Novell Directory Services is now available on the company's Web site.