Microsoft-Novell Feud Flares

Software giant claims millions dropping NetWare for Windows.

Just as the Novell BrainShare conference got under way here, Microsoft claimed that it migrated 3.3 million customers off NetWare and onto Windows over the past two years.

The software giant, based in Redmond, Wash., also has launched a new program to lure customers in the education and state and local government sectors off NetWare and onto Windows.

This battle underscores the larger war going on between the two companies for customers. Microsoft is aggressively trying to lure NetWare customers onto its proprietary Windows platform, while Novell is trying to persuade customers to move to its Open Enterprise Server, which, Novell says, protects the prior investment customers made in NetWare while extending the freedom and flexibility of Linux.

This is not the first time that Microsoft has released during BrainShare figures of customer migration from NetWare to Windows.

Last year during BrainShare, Microsoft and its partner Quest Software announced that they had successfully migrated more than 1.5 million NetWare users to Microsoft Windows Server 2003.

In November 2004, Microsoft rolled out a new set of programs, under its "Mid-Market NetWare Migration Promotion" banner, aimed at persuading Novells installed base—particularly midsize companies—to move to Windows Server 2003.

"Microsoft and its partners continue to see progress in the area of NetWare migrations onto Windows, with more than 1.8 million successful commercial sector migrations completed in 2005 alone and a total of 3.3 million customers migrated over the past two years," Ryan Gavin, Microsofts director of platform strategy, told eWeek.

Asked where Micro-soft got those specific numbers, Gavin said they represent the number of "successful migrations completed in partnership with Quest Software in 2005." The figures also reflect the number of users rather than individual commercial migrations and reflect migrations from NetWare versions 4, 5 and 6 and from Novell eDirectory 4, 5 and 8, he said.

Jeff Jaffe, Novells chief technology officer, refused to be drawn into the fray over migration numbers, but he told eWeek that Novell is a big believer in choice and interoperability, which is evident in its embrace of open standards and its building an infrastructure that interoperates with Windows. "Our customers want to preserve the top-class services they get along with NetWare, and Windows simply does not offer these, not now and not into the future.

"But customers also would like to be able to have their infrastructure work with both Windows and NetWare. So our goal is simply to give customers what they want; interoperating with Windows is a good way of doing that," Jaffe said.

But, from Microsofts perspective, customers are currently at a crossroads when it comes to their NetWare environment, facing the option of "either staying with NetWare as it stands today, with no plans for new versions, or upgrading to [Novells] SUSE Linux. Many are making the choice to move to Windows," a Microsoft spokesperson said.

Microsoft is, however, not content with limiting potential NetWare migrations to the commercial sector and is now targeting customers in the education and state and local government sectors that Microsoft officials said are facing the same migration choices.

In line with this, Microsoft announced on March 20 a new program targeted at helping these education and government sector customers evaluate, deploy and administer the Windows platform.

The company is offering these customers free network assessment, eVouchers for training to help them understand the Microsoft platform and a support voucher for a free premiere support incident.

Ron Hovsepian, No--vells president and chief operating officer, told eWeek during an interview here that Microsoft remains a very real threat and has been targeting Novell and its customers for a long time now.

"But, rather than focusing on what our competitors are doing and saying, we are looking at where the market is going and what our customer needs are. Our open enterprise strategy flies in the face of Microsofts strategy," Hovsepian said.

Novell has remained committed to migrating NetWare to its Open Enterprise Server, as this gives customers many more options and would help them avoid the Windows Vista, Office 2007 and "Longhorn" server conversions they would face if they were on the Windows platform, he said.