by Wayne M. Krakau - Chicago Computer Guide, June 1995

It’s here! It’s new! It’s exiting! It’s wild! No, I’m not talking about the latest pheromone-spiked fragrance, created to have members of the opposite sex buzzing around you like lovesick fruitflies. I’m talking about Netware 4.1, the latest offering from the 600-pound gorilla of the networking industry, Novell. This version is the real thing - finally. Netware 3.12 has been relegated to has-been status. If you are thinking of upgrading your network server, either hardware or software, this is the time to jump on the Netware 4.1 bandwagon. (Let’s see now, how many bad marketing clichés can you find in this paragraph?)

If all of this sounds familiar, then you probably remember the release of Netware 3.11, the first stable release of the Novell’s 3.x series and the subsequent controversy over Netware 2.2, the last of the 2.x series. While Netware 2.2 wasn’t officially declared dead until mid-1994, it was released after Netware 3.11 and, therefore, doomed from birth.

Netware 3.12, in contrast, had a period of usefulness. Versions of Netware 4.x prior to 4.1 were incomplete and not nearly as reliable as 4.1. Many programs would not run properly under Netware 4.1 or under VLM’s (Virtual Loadable Module’s), the workstation software that is required if you want to access all of the features of Netware 4.1. This left some companies with no upgrade alternative other than Netware 3.12.

Even today, if you are stuck with an old application that is explicitly incompatible with Netware 4.1, your business needs this specific application to survive (you can’t switch to another brand of software), and the software publisher isn’t smart enough to modernize or is not skilled enough to convert the program, then you may be stuck with Netware 3.12. (This might be a good time to reevaluate potential replacement software.) Also, since Netware 3.12 is merely a "cleaned-up" 3.11, you might end up just staying (for the moment) with 3.11.

As a side issue, prior to the release of Netware 4.1, I only did 3.11 to 3.12 upgrades for those clients who were going to purchase a complete replacement server. Upgrading Netware at the same time requires little added labor, since we would be simultaneously upgrading all of the driver software anyway. (Note that these "drivers" are intermediaries that allow communications between the hardware - network cards, disk controllers, etc. - and the system software - in this case, Netware.) I have not suggested upgrades for other clients, since versions 3.11 and 3.12 are so similar.

This situation has inspired me to rewrite my original litmus test for choosing a reseller. The original test covered Netware 2.2, while this test covers Netware 3.12 (subsequent to the release of Netware 4.1).

If, (excepting the compatibility problem mentioned above) through advertising or personal contact, a reseller has proposed to sell Netware 3.12 (or worse, an earlier version), one of the following is true:

A. The reseller is so out of touch with the real world that he or she doesn’t even realize that Netware 3.12 is a complete dead-end, long relegated to second class status by software and hardware manufacturers, and more recently, by Novell. If they are that out of touch with industry conditions, why deal with them?

B. The reseller knows of Netware 3.12's obsolescence, but wants to get rid of leftover stock, and has no ethical problems with tricking a client into buying an inappropriate product. If they are that unethical, why should you deal with them?

C. The reseller knows of Netware 3.12's obsolescence, but wants to make extra money by making the customer upgrade twice, first to 3.12, and later to 4.1, with all of the attendant duplication of labor. This reseller has no ethical problem with "churning" an account (at least that’s what they call it when a stock broker performs extra transactions to get more commissions - this concept is similar). If they are so unethical, why should you deal with them?

Novell has previously used a carrot and stick approach to accelerate the natural trend of market forces when trying to persuade customers to upgrade to the latest version of Netware. In the past, this has included limited-time upgrade discounts on the carrot side and implied or explicit promises of lack of future development on the stick side.

Novell is taking a similar tack in the push for Netware 4.1 acceptance. It announced an official policy of neglect for the Netware 3.x product line - and then backpedalled, the same pattern they originally followed with the 2.x line. Novell has also decreased the price on Netware 4.1 to match those of 3.12, eliminating the direct financial incentive for purchasing Netware 3.12.

For the more cynical among you, please note that there are patches available for those remaining reported errors within Netware 4.1 (including the infamous compression slowdown problem) on Compuserve (GO NETWIRE) and the Internet (http://www.netware.com). Of course, Netware 3.12, Netware 3.11, and even all of the Netware 2.x patches and fixes are also available from these sources.

The dictionary defines deja vu as the feeling of having lived through the same event previously. I think this situation qualifies.

©1995, Wayne M. Krakau