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the road less taken

Sticking with NT,
the road less taken

Novell is dead–Not! Long live NT!
Are reports of NetWare’s death premature? Our office has received many calls from formerly happy users of Novell Inc.’s popular and ground-breaking networking software. Happy–until they were told that Novell is hopelessly out of date, and they better move to NT ASAP.
Why? In this column, we will discuss the world of NT and the current employment ticket to the corporate front door: the MCSE.
Novell wrote the book on networking software. For 15 years, companies have used Novell’s software to make their PCs talk to each other, and to share printers, programs and data. Only in the last three to five years has anyone made a serious dent in Novell’s market share; when Microsoft speaks, people cower.
Now Microsoft Corp.’s marketing muscle, combined with Novell’s missteps in the marketplace, have brought confusion to the masses. Most local resellers are looking to Windows NT as the system of choice when installing new networks. (No one ever got fired for recommending Microsoft.)
Many leading-edge technologies–such as Microsoft’s Exchange mail server, Internet Information Server Web server, accounting software based on Microsoft SQL Server and computer telephone products (which use the computer as a phone system replacement)–will only run on the NT platform.
Market research firm International Data Corp. reports that NT workstation licenses quadrupled to more than 2.3 million worldwide last year, and should double this year to 4.3 million. Server licenses increased 86 percent last year, and will increase at least 25 percent this year.
But is Novell dead? Should every company with a Novell network immediately throw it away and move to NT? Should every consultant, adviser and reseller smell the roses and abandon their current expertise to become a Microsoft expert, with initials like MCP, MCSE and MCT?

Can I stay with NetWare?
In the next two years, most companies using Novell NetWare have to make a decision. Most NetWare products have a year 2000 problem that can be fixed through patches or upgrades.
However, as long as companies are paying someone to come in and service the network, is it time to pay a few dollars more and get NT?
If you want to run business applications that require NT, your answer is easy: Add or replace with NT. Otherwise, your decision to change is based on a number of issues, including performance, support and the future of Novell.

If everything has been running smoothly under Novell, you may be in for a letdown when you move to NT. NT is often less reliable than NetWare. There is sometimes a decrease in performance. Support for non-Windows workstations is limited.

The catch-22 of sales: As the NT platform gains popularity, you will find less Novell support available. As less Novell support is available, the NT platform will gain popularity.
NT administration is more familiar to the Windows-friendly user. And NT has proven to be a favorite among developers as an attractive development environment.

The future of Novell.
When Microsoft decides to dominate its marketplace, its competitors face major difficulties. Many analysts wonder about the long-term viability of Novell. After seeing years of bad management, those analysts have seen a change. Novell’s NetWare 5 is due to ship as of this writing.
Novell has realized it is no longer the front-runner, and is actively seeking ways to coexist with NT, including offering highly acclaimed new products like NDS (Novell Directory Services), Border Manager, and ZEN (Zero Effort Networking).
Novell also is more actively courting its resellers, distributing training materials and giving away education perks–this at a time when a relationship with Microsoft comes at a very dear price.
For many users, there is no compelling reason to move from NetWare to NT. Don’t do it only because everyone else is.

Microsoft: an expensive date
Partnering with Microsoft is not inexpensive, but the company does try to make it profitable. There is an incredibly high demand for Microsoft professionals in light of the increased acceptance of NT, especially at the Enterprise level. For an individual hoping to benefit from this craze, training and exams can run upward of $10,000 to $15,000 for the meal ticket: certification as an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Software Engineer).
A large corporation in Rochester recently decided to standardize on Microsoft’s Windows NT and Exchange Server. Our office received a call.
Forget 20 years’ experience with DOS, Novell, Windows and Unix; ignore a willingness and ability to learn and implement systems. If we had an MCSE with experience installing Microsoft Exchange Server, a two-year contract, at $250,000 per year, would have been ready to sign.
There is no question that an MCSE can make big money, or that the MCSE is the ticket to get in the corporate front door. Corporate America is taking a big gamble with Microsoft products and Microsoft wants to give them the assurance that there are people ready to help them make their gamble pay off.
Microsoft has put a great deal of pressure on consultants to gain knowledge of their products (and prove that knowledge through certification). Even passing one core exam confers the right to use the initials MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional).
With such a high entrance cost–and the need to pay $4,000 or more annually to keep up with technological changes–corporations are finding it difficult to recruit and retain MCSEs. In addition, they find it a gamble to certify their own staff, as the enhanced resume opens bidding wars with other companies. Many managers have determined to get MCSEs themselves and train their staff internally, padding their own resumes instead.
The value of a MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) also will blossom over the next few years.
The MCSE program brings up a number of complications. For example, a technology firm that prides itself on objectivity, such as ours, faces a challenge: Buying into the MCSE concept is a public declaration that Microsoft products are the best products for the job.
As one wag put it, the MCSE program is an opportunity to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of selling and supporting someone else’s products.
Do I have to move from NetWare to NT? Do I have to have an MCSE to stay in business? Two tough questions. Take your time to consider the costs and benefits before moving.
(Eric Cohen, a CPA, owns Cohen Computer Consulting, which helps growing businesses cope with and benefit from information technology. He is the author of the new book, “Accountant’s Guide to the Internet” (John Wiley & Sons Inc.). His home page is at www.computercpa.com.)


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