Microsoft, Novell Wrangle over NetWare Migration

Updated: Just in time for the Novell BrainShare conference, Microsoft claims that millions of customers are dropping NetWare for Windows.

SALT LAKE CITY—Just as the Novell BrainShare conference gets under way, Microsoft is claiming that it has migrated 3.3 million customers off NetWare and onto Windows over the past two years.

The software giant, based in Redmond, Wash., has also 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 on to its proprietary Windows platform, while Novell is trying to convince them to move to its Open Enterprise Server, which it says protects the prior investment they made in NetWare while extending the freedom and flexibility of Linux.

This is not the first time that Microsoft has released figures for migration off Novells NetWare and onto Windows during BrainShare, with the apparent goal of diverting attention away from Novells conference news.

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

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more on why BrainShare 2005 was one that mattered.

In November 2004, Microsoft also rolled out a new set of programs, under the "Mid-Market NetWare Migration Promotion" banner, aimed at convincing Novells installed base—especially 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 Microsoft had gotten those specific numbers, Gavin said they represented 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 off Netware versions 4, 5 and 6 with Novell directory services 4, 5 and 8.

Jeff Jaffe, Novells chief technology officer refused to be drawn into the fray over migration numbers, but he told eWEEK in an interview that Novell was a big believer in choice and interoperability, which was evident in its embrace of open standards and building an infrastructure that interoperated 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 Novell NetWare environment, facing the option of "either staying with NetWare as it stands today, with no plans for new versions, or upgrading to SUSE Linux. Many are making the choice to move to Windows," the spokesman 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 who the Redmond, Wash. software firm said is 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.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEK Labs review of Open Enterprise Server 1.0.

It is offering them 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, Novells president and chief operating officer, told eWEEK in an interview that Microsoft remained a very real threat and had 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," he said.

Novell has remained committed to migrating NetWare over 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.

Editors Note: This story was updated to include more information about migrations from Netware to Windows.

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.