Microsoft Tempts NetWare Users With Migration Deal - InformationWeek

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11/19/2004
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Microsoft Tempts NetWare Users With Migration Deal

Microsoft launches a major campaign to convince Novell customers to adopt Windows Server 2003 rather than SuSE Linux.

Microsoft's top Linux strategist fired first at Red Hat but now is taking direct aim at Novell.

As part of the software giant's newly minted strategy of taking on Linux commercial companies rather than the Linux kernel or open source generally, Microsoft this week announced a major set of resources, tools and promotions designed to help Novell customers migrate from NetWare to Windows Server 2003, rather than to SUSE Linux.

Chief among the announcements is a U.S. Midmarket NetWare Migration Promotion that forks over to NetWare customers a $600 partner subsidy for each Windows Server 2003 license and 50 Client Access Licenses purchased, up to a maximum of 25 subsidies per customer, valued at as much as $15,000. The promotion, which will last until May, was announced this week along with an updated Windows Services For NetWare stack, free two-day "cooking classes" that show customers how to move NetWare to Windows and Novell GroupWise to Exchange, and a 20 percent discount for enterprise customers that want to use Quest's NDS Migrator software to migrate NetWare scripts and user profiles to Windows Server 2003.

In September, Martin Taylor, chief platform strategist at Microsoft, said the software giant will compete more directly against Red Hat, Novell, IBM and other Linux commercial companies. At that time, Microsoft went after Red Hat with claims that Windows offers a better total cost of ownership, technical support and legal indemnification than Red Hat.

Taylor dismisses the notion that Microsoft is aggressively poaching NetWare customers as the year--and NT technical support--comes to a close. Still, as many NT customers actively hunt for their future migration path, Taylor was quick to cite what he claims are Novell's weak points in selling the SUSE Linux argument to its installed base.

First, he said Novell's installed base lacks the Unix skills that enabled Red Hat to more easily and successfully migrate Solaris Unix and other Unix customers to Red Hat Linux. He also claimed that most Novell customers support two platforms in-house and don't want to add a third, and that Novell's approach of bundling NetWare and SUSE Linux in its upcoming Open Server makes Novell's brand of Linux more proprietary than that of Red Hat.

"We have Novell customers coming to us saying they're at an inflection point and they don't know what to do. They're confused," Taylor said. "I had 12 Novell reseller partners tell me they don't know if they want to be a Linux reseller, and [they] said if they're going to talk about [migrating] to Linux, they might as well talk about migrating to Windows. We're giving them the tools to do that."

He also said Novell's channel argument is dated. When Novell acquired SUSE Linux, Novell executives cited its significant installed base of solution providers as an advantage over Red Hat. "Everyone agrees that Novell's channel isn't what it used to be and is different than in their heyday, and it's optimistic to assume that all channel partners will pick up the skills to do Linux. Some don't want to do Linux, and some have Windows resources in-house today," Taylor said.

"I was trying to find pure NetWare VARs, and they don't exist," he added. "Most of these VARs have some Microsoft skills, and they don't want yet another platform to support."

Novell didn't respond to requests for comment at press time.

As Microsoft moves its focus to Novell, solution providers on both sides of the fence weighed in on the state of the market.

"Now is a good time for NetWare clients to determine if they want to move down the Linux path or move to Microsoft. We continue to migrate NetWare users to Microsoft, and the current Novell-to-Microsoft promotion is making the choice even easier," said Scott Urbatsch, engineering manager at Polar Systems, Portland, Ore. "We have many clients that have decided to move to Microsoft. It's just a matter of time."

A solution provider in the Linux camp said he was unimpressed with Microsoft's partner subsidy and noted that NetWare partners will have to make significant investments in whichever platform they choose. "The subsidy would just go to offset the cost of the software. Most of the costs are still in services, and $600 compared with the cost of deploying a new network operating system is a drop in the bucket," said Alex Zaltsman, managing director of Exigent, Morristown, N.J.

"There is huge learning curve [switching] from NetWare or Windows to Linux, so I really don't see Novell partners jumping the NetWare ship and diving into Linux," Zaltsman said. "Like their Microsoft counterparts, they need to heavily invest in Linux training and get experience with it until they move anyone to Linux or Windows."

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