Novell Corp’s new chief executive Eric Schmidt must have felt a great disturbance in The Force this week – as if millions of copies of NetWare were being ignored by his customers, all at once. This would seem to be the conclusion after International Data Corp’s publishing of figures which suggest that, in 1996, sales of ‘Death Star’ Microsoft Windows NT grew by 85%, outselling new units of Novell’s rival network operating system by 200%. In the fourth quarter of 1996, Windows NT Server outshipped NetWare 3.x, 4.x and NetWare Loadable Modules combined, Microsoft boasts, in a radio broadcast from the heart of the Empire. This only makes yesterday’s announcement of another Novell-A.N. Other Microsoft-trumping alliance, tar-rah, be it only the second of the week (cf Novonyx, CI No 3,127), even more, ahem, significant. In the early 1990s Oracle Corp and Novell flirted with the idea of a formal combination – though it is believed talks never got as far as the half-baked discussions between Jim Manzi, then chief executive of Lotus Development Corp, and Larry Ellison, head of Oracle Corp, held right at the beginning of the decade. Instead, we had OracleWare, the ‘virtual corporation.’ In June 1993 (CI No 2,190) the pair held a series of highly pompous and self-congratulatory press conferences to boost an alliance based on the loose integration of NetWare version 3.12, Oracle7 Server for NetWare, Oracle Office and Oracle ‘Glue’ (an application programming interface for connecting different databases along the lines of Microsoft’s ODBC standard). This conglomeration, which included very little new software apart from some ho-hum messaging and scheduling elements, was designed to build on the alleged momentum being built up from the previous year’s announcement that Oracle was to become a NetWare Loadable Module bundle for the NetWare operating system. OracleWare – or ‘Neticle’ as some contrarians promptly dubbed it – was to be sold primarily through Novell’s then soi- disant fearsomely powerful reseller channel, and supported in a ’24×7′ fashion by Oracle.
By Gary Flood
More important than the product, though, was the warm loving feelings we were all supposed to feel emanating from typing ‘Oracle’ and ‘Novell’ in the same sentence – it was supposed to have all the advantages of a merger without the ‘messy’ aspects. In the event, it just all went ‘phut,’ like a burst tyre, and to add insult to injury ‘SybaseWare’ – a low-key version of the same package, which started with Sybase becoming an Network Loadable Module on NetWare a year later – was much more popular. OracleWare was finally taken out at dawn and de-emphasized ‘with extreme prejudice’ last year. But nothing seems to stop these guys: Oracle and Novell just can’t seem to keep their hands off each other, and now we have yet another virtual alliance. Under the terms of this new bundling, Oracle will integrate its Web Application Server 3.0 product and the self-same Oracle NLM with Novell’s Intranetware, Web Server, and NDS (Novell Directory Services) products, with the thing once again to be sold primarily through the channel as a quick way to build intranet and Web-based transaction and e-commerce applications. At least this time around somebody’s job will be depend on doing something – Oracle will create a Novell Products Division to integrate technology and marketing activities with Novell. But what of Novonyx? Asking such a question is plainly the sign of someone who doesn’t ‘get’ the dynamics of Internet relationships, one feels: just as former Novell head Ray Noorda used to speak of ‘co-opetition,’ a cute if ultimately meaningless way of saying ‘sometimes competitors bunch their shields together when Microsoft attacks, though we may all soon bicker over ways forward ourselves,’ in the current Zeitgeist, an ‘alliance’ that plans to strew stingers in the path of the Microsoft tyres is kosher, so long as it is visibly anti-Death Star. Now it’s up to customers to decide if ‘Neticle part II’ will zip down the exhaust port and detonate the Death Star, or simply impact harmlessly on the side.
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