Microsoft Tempts Novell NetWare Users

Microsoft is aggressively pursuing Novell NetWare customers with discounts, new migration tools and services for Windows Server 2003.

Industry analysts called the strategy a smart one, indicating that the majority of enterprise NetWare users — at a crossroads of moving to SuSE Linux with Novell or migrating to another platform that is most likely Windows — sway to Microsoft for perceived support advantages.

“I think it’s an obvious target for Microsoft to go after to grow their share of the server market,” Meta Group research vice president Steve Kleynhans told TechNewsWorld. “My gut tells me most [NetWare users] — either for expertise reasons or for confidence reasons — will probably move in a Windows direction.”

Microsoft announced it would provide migration tools, guidance and training for customers looking to switch to Windows. Customers in the U.S. can qualify for a US$600 subsidy for each Windows Server 2003 license purchased with 50 access licenses, with a maximum 25 subsidies, Microsoft said. The company is also offering online training vouchers, unlimited newsgroup technical support, and migration software that includes tools from Quest Software, a migration specialist.

Larger and Safer

Kleynhans said since NetWare is now being integrated with Novell’s SuSE Linux products, NetWare customers are being forced to choose migration to Linux or another platform. However, while most NetWare users are already supporting Windows, few are supporting Linux, the analyst said.

“Some NetWare users are a little wary of migrating on a minority platform,” Kleynhans said. “[Research] suggests they would rather go with something they perceive as larger and safer. They probably will slide into Windows migration, particularly when Microsoft starts dumping fuel into the thing to help migration.”

Kleynhans also said the play for NetWare users fits with Microsoft’s strategy to dominate the small and medium business server market.

Support Problems

Although Novell and Microsoft last week announced an agreement, whereby Microsoft paid Novell $565 million, to settle antitrust charges over NetWare, Kleynhans said the NetWare migration effort from Microsoft was signaled in July and was probably unrelated to the settlement.

While Novell is pursuing a separate antitrust case against Microsoft over WordPerfect in U.S. District Court, Microsoft is hoping its Windows enticements will give it the bulk of Novell NetWare customers.

“These offerings are designed to help address customers’ concerns and assist them in evaluating their options through information, tools and Microsoft partner support, making migration easier and more cost-effective,” said Microsoft general manager of platform strategy Martin Taylor in a statement.

Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio told TechNewsWorld that despite its dominance in the late 1980s and early 1990s, customers are finding it harder and harder to support NetWare.

DiDio, who called version 5.0 of NetWare “clean,” indicated that there are complaints regarding the more recent NetWare 6.5, which has suffered from the loss of technical expertise at Novell.

“The faith in Novell has been shaken by its decline in market share,” DiDio said.

The analyst added that the recent departure of Linux and open-source advocate Chris Stone and related “turmoil” at Novell has further eroded confidence in the NetWare Linux path.

Clever with Complexity

DiDio said her research revealed that eight out of 10 “legacy” Novell customers, including some very large accounts, were planning to migrate to Windows.

In addition, of those switching to Linux, most were looking to migrate to Red Hat Linux, rather than the lesser-known SUSE Linux acquired by Novell this year.

“What Microsoft is doing is very clever,” DiDio said, highlighting to the substantial Windows migration assistance being offered to customers concerned about the complexity of changing platforms.

“It’s hard to turn down cold hard cash,” she said, referring to the Windows Server 2003 subsidies. “The other thing is they’re making it so easy. They’re giving you all of the guidance.”

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