• United States

NetWare + Unix/Linux = heard it all before

May 01, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* More intrigue over Novell's Linux strategy

In the last episode, er, issue, I brought up the ghost of SuperNOS, the odd combination of Unix and NetWare, which former Novell CEO Bob Frankenberg foisted on an unwitting public almost 10 years ago. I brought it up because of current Novell CEO Jack Messman’s allusions to a Linux version of NetWare due with NetWare 7, sometime in 2005.

Frankenberg also thought that his SuperNOS would take about two years to bring together, so many people were surprised that after Frankenberg’s abrupt departure from Novell in August of 1996 that the entire issue of SuperNOS was downplayed and rarely was the term heard again. It was only many years later that the truth was revealed.

There never was a SuperNOS. No project, no engineers, no prototype, nothing but a gleam in Frankenberg’s eye. But it did get people talking about Novell and NetWare, so other Novell execs were willing to go along with the idea in order to keep the company name in the public eye. As far as I can tell, though, the only person who thought that SuperNOS would ever come to fruition was Frankenberg himself.

The only original designer of NetWare still working for the company during Frankenberg’s reign was Drew Major (Kyle Powell and Dale Neibaur had given up day-to-day employment but still occasionally consulted for the company). Major also bought into the fiction that SuperNOS could save the company (see an interesting story about Major’s keynote address featuring SuperNOS at the 1996 BrainShare at It was only very recently that Major finally admitted that really there never was a SuperNOS.

There had been some half-hearted attempts, of course, but it didn’t take a brilliant mind to realize that combining NetWare and Unix would simply give you the worst of both systems, not the best. It seems significant that Major parted ways with Novell just a few weeks before Messman’s waving of the Linux flag.

I didn’t go to BrainShare this year, the first gathering of the NetWare clan I’ve missed since 1986 (when it was called the Developer’s Conference). Drew Major had never missed one – until this year.

For 16 years I’d watched Major and a changing cast of characters close the annual meeting at the Friday morning general session with lots of whiz-bang technology and the occasional pyrotechnics (when he destroyed the pin-headed mascots, Bob and Tina). Perhaps Drew couldn’t face another SuperNOS fiasco, or the loss of his beloved NetWare kernel.

I do believe, by the way, that assistant CEO Chris Stone was less than ingenuous a couple of weeks ago when he strenuously protested his treatment by U.K. trade publication “IT Week” (see: “Be Careful what you say, Chris” He had to be well aware of Messman’s intent to dump NetWare in favor of Linux (or, at least, to make noises as if this is what he’d like to do) yet chose to backpedal and proclaim he was misquoted when, in reality, he was quoted very well. See the full text at where Stone does admit that five years from now NetWare will be gone.

Drop me a note at with your thoughts on this whole sorry episode.