Novell NetWare vs. Microsoft networking

Microsoft finally made headway against NetWare with Windows NT Server

Novell had the early lead in the network operating system market, but a persistent Microsoft kept hammering away until NetWare become a just a memory in many companies.

If it weren’t for Novell’s Ray Noorda taking his eye off the networking ball in favor of chasing the corporate desktop, Novell’s NetWare might still be a powerhouse network operating system. 

At the height of its success in the early 1990s, NetWare commanded more than 70% of the market and a loyal customer base drawn to the product for its file sharing prowess, reliability and performance.

NetWare, which was developed as a contracted project by a few computer science graduates of Brigham Young University, debuted in 1981. “The product was originally known as ShareNet,” says Drew Major, a founder of Novell and often referred to as the Father of NetWare. “NetWare was more of a continuation of the ‘ware’ part of the various computer terms of the time -- [software and hardware] -- and since no one was really doing much networking yet we could have a name that was in a sense generic yet proprietary to us and our position.”

In 1985 Microsoft, the vendor of the popular MS-DOS desktop operating system -- launched a weak alternative to NetWare called Microsoft MS-NET. Later, Microsoft introduced LAN Manager in response to NetWare’s market success. Microsoft even teamed with IBM on OS/2 LAN Server to counter NetWare. It wasn’t until 1994 when a persistent Microsoft introduced Windows NT Server that the tables took on a decidedly Microsoft slant.

When Novell acquired SUSE in 2003 and with it a Linux operating system distribution, the NOS market started shifting again.

To pull the company out of its doldrums, Novell introduced Linux to its NetWare customers and blended NetWare with Linux via a product called Open Enterprise Server. Now, four years later, hundreds of NetWare networks are using Linux for applications as diverse as Web, database and application servers and NetWare services running on top of Linux may take a while to disappear from the corporate landscape.

The companies, worn down by decades of battling over the NOS market, this year actually began collaborating on network operating systems, building each others' technologies into their products

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