Legacy Customers

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2004-12-27 Print this article Print

This time, however, Novell wasnt going to make the intraNetWare mistake. Novell has been making it loud and clear that its next-generation operating platform, OES (Open Enterprise Server), will run on both NetWare and Linux.

By doing this, Novell is also making sure that it doesnt lose its hundreds of thousands of NetWare legacy customers.

It may be expensive to support two operating-system kernels, but consider the alternative. Many operating-system companies have tried to shove new operating systems down their customers throats. It doesnt work very well.

SCO, in its Unix mode, tried for years to kill off its older Unix platform, OpenServer, in favor of the more enterprise-oriented UnixWare. They failed. Today, SCO has given up on trying to force its customers and resellers to upgrade and plans to merge the two operating systems down the road.

Microsoft has tried to do it with version after version of Windows. Now, its really pushing the issue by refusing to backport XP SP2 security improvements to older operating systems such as Windows 2000. I think this is going to blow up in Microsofts face.

Many users still use Windows 98SE and NT, even as technical support drops out from underneath them, and I cant see Microsoft trying to force W2K users to upgrade to XP working either. I think Microsoft will only end up driving users to move to safer, open-source program alternatives such as Firefox for their browser needs and even start considering switching to other desktop operating systems such as Novells own Novell Linux Desktop.

The bottom line is that while users want improvements, they dont want radical change. So it is that I think Novell has a real chance to become a major server player again.

With OES, users can either use their reliable, improved NetWare kernel, or give the (to my way of thinking) better SuSE Linux kernel a try. In any case, though, the NetWare services theyve known and used for years remain the same. Novell is giving its customers significant system improvements without forcing them to change.

I like this approach a lot, and I strongly suspect that Novells customers—the ones who are still with it, the ones who gave up on it a long time ago and the new ones to come—are going to like it, too.

eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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