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Painting by numbers, Novell-style

Feb 06, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMarketing

* Novell continues to confuse with its version numbering system

Last time we talked about Novell’s new advertising campaign and how it reflected well on Novell’s marketing team. But there’s another issue that has marketing’s fingerprints all over it, and it’s one that needs to be changed – quickly and decisively.

In August of 2001 – almost a year and a half ago – I complained about NDS/eDirectory’s strange versioning information (“Pick a number” which seem to change as often as the product name did. But did Novell learn? Would I be writing about it now if it did?

An astute reader (or one with too much time on his hands) pointed me towards Novell’s Technical Information Document (TID) #10066623, “New Versioning Standards for eDIrectory 8.6 or Greater” (

Will Novell never learn?

The document explains that, from now on, eDirectory will have both “marketing and build version formats” (i.e., two separate and distinct version numbers for each release). The document’s author then wrote, probably with a straight face, “These formats are meant to eliminate any confusion for future releases”.

Here’s an example: eDirectory 8.6.2 (the marketing release number). There are two versions: one that comes with NetWare 6 Support Pack 1 (DS.NLM engineering build #10310.17), and one that’s downloadable as eDirectory 8.6.2 and has a DS.NLM that carries an engineering-build #10320.04. The DSREPAIR.NLMs that come in these two packages also carry separate, and different, engineering build numbers (10210.23 and 10210.24). Is any of that entirely clear?

Now, I don’t want to discourage Novell from using the engineering build number. In an ideal world that updates each time a change occurs in the code (major change or otherwise), even if the change is never released. But why oh why does the marketing number not change when a different engineering build is released? How could there possibly be a good reason to have two separate and distinct services that are both called eDirectory 8.6.2?

Since there are two different builds of DS.NLM and DSREPAIR.NLM identified as 8.6.2, that yields four different combinations identified as 8.6.2 – can you say “support nightmare” boys and girls? Of course, eDirectory is made up of more than two modules. Who knows how many builds of the others are identified as 8.6.2?

Back when Novell was shipping NetWare 2.15, there were four different marketing releases (2.15, 2.15a, 2.15b and 2.15c) each made up of different combinations of builds. It became impossible to support those short of comparing each file (on each of the 30+ diskettes that carried the installation material) via date and time stamp to know what builds were being used. Rarely could you find two identical installations of NetWare.

It was after this debacle that Novell decided to never upgrade the shipping product (the so-called “red box” product) but to always use patch files to bring the installation up to date. Evidently, the new people in marketing (who did such a good job on the new advertising campaign) neglected to study the lesson on the need to update marketing versions whenever a product changes. Let’s hope they quickly see the light.