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My previous job had used Novell products for almost 15 years. From my experience, it seemed to work rather well over the years. The last few years though have been met with bad support and long support times. To my knowledge, it was a decent size support contract that I would think with the amount of money being spent; support would be top notch. Well I heard recently that they will be replacing all Novell servers/software with windows servers on the main servers with Linux servers here and there. Novell used to be a major competitor to windows and I am getting the feeling this is not so much the case anymore. Every job interview I have went to has kind of chuckled over my mention of working with Novell at my previous employer and I kind of have to laugh back a little. I am hearing nothing but negative stories of Novell use and support now days. The only people I find using it are people that have been using it for a long time. Am I the only one seeing Novell decline? Is there some area of Novell that has really thrived? Their conversion to SUSE Linux seemed to generate a lot of interest years ago, but that has since disappeared. Anyone actually have any happy Novell support/usage stories? Would anyone actualy use/recommend Novell services and server software for implementing a brand new network infrastructure?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Novell is still making money, but not for the reasons they were making it back around 2001. NetWare/Open Enterprise Server is a small piece of their "operating system" market, which otherwise contains their SLES and SLED products. GroupWise is still around and the community around it is vibrant. Zen for Desktops (now ZENWorks Configuration Management) is still around, but a small piece of the overall ZEN product line.

That said, they've been attempting to buy their way into the datacenter infrastructure market, most notably their purchase of PlateSpin a while back. Interestingly, they seem to not be rebranding Plate Spin as Novell Plate Spin, even though the big VM installations are very into Plate Spin due to it's P2V and V2V capabilities.

Their identity management product, Novell Identity Management, was the #1 identity management product for a number of years and may still hold that tile. There are now other competitors to it that are almost as featured. Novell was in the enviable position of being the party you have to be cheaper than in order to compete with for some years. They also earned a lot of consulting money with IDM deployments.

ZENWorks has expanded WELL beyond what it was in 2001. It now includes more than simple Desktop management. There is an Asset Management piece that allows more detailed tracking of both hardware and software assets, including licensing compliance. The ZENWorks Orchestrator is very useful in heterogeneous virtualization environments. They've recently added an 'Endpoint Security Management' piece, another acquisition IIRC, to get into the Network Access Controls market. And none of these require NDS or eDirectory, and can run in a pure Windows Active Directory environment.

Their support has gotten more annoying since they hey-day in 2002. But then, so has everyone's. Novell has offshored their helpdesk functions just as fast as everyone else in the industry. While they now allow unlimited call in, they now require a support contract before you do so; gone are the per-incident contracts of yester-year. Novell support used to be top of the industry in terms of experience, now they're just dead average.

This is not the Novell we all knew in 1999.

Would I use Novell stuff for a brand new install? In certain instances, absolutely.

If I were looking to do any kind of identity management and didn't have something already, or had a cobbled together rube-goldberg assemblage of db extracts, perl and powershell scripts, and nightly batch-runs, I'd be really interested in Novell Identity Manager. I'd try and get funds for it, since the environment is a lot cleaner to work in. In an environment like ours where we have several different identity databases, some of them application-specific, it would make maintainability much nicer.

If I were looking for workstation management more featured than simple GPO's and some SQL-server backed WMI scripts, their ZENworks stack has a lot of very nice features in it. Especially if I was in an industry subjected to compliance audits of any kind (HIPPA, SOX, FERPA, PCI, others).

If I had a need for a lot of enterprise managed Linux workstations, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop would be a very good choice. There isn't a lot of demand for that, but the product is there if you need it.

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+1 for IDM. Essential in a public company (or one that might go public) or an audited university/higher-ed context these days. –  Karl Katzke Jul 29 '09 at 2:22

I have, er, fond memories of Personal NetWare and getting their Windows Client32 to behave with legacy database locking.

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We finished migrating off Groupwise about a year ago and that was the last reason we had NDS around.

In our experience, there was a decline in the quality of support and a marked rise in the cost while there seemed like a lack of a clear future for the platform and the email system.

A migration to Novell on SUSE to support Groupwise didn't make sense to us given the circumstances. If we were going to undertake that kind up effort, it made more sense to us to scrap it altogether and ditch the ongoing cost and replace the apps and services at a lower cost on our standard platforms (Redhat and Windows).

Best case scenario for sticking with it would have been a migration to Novell services on SUSE to support Groupwise and then likely be faced sooner rather than later with another migration off Groupwise.

Seemed better to make a clean break with Novell & GW's uncertain future.

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I remember moving from novell 5 to 6 and then to 6.5 and every time had some wacky issues that took forever to resolve. –  Troggy Jul 8 '09 at 2:06
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Groupwise on OES/Linux is remarkably stable and really nice compared to the Netware world. Migration was dead simple, and we can do all kinds of fun things from the OES2 (essentially, SLES 10sp2 or OpenSuSE 10) stack underneath. I'd say you really missed out. –  Karl Katzke Jul 29 '09 at 2:24
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What exactly did we miss out on? We replaced a Groupwise system with Zimbra running on Red Hat at a much lower cost both in software and hardware. Groupwise is a nice email system and can provide a good user experience. It may be bulletproof on linux. Our experience with increasingly expensive but unsatisfactory support from Novell and what seemed like an uncertain future for the product didn't balance against those factors. –  damorg Jul 29 '09 at 11:43

Novell is dead. Has been for years. This isn't a recent thing. There are countless articles dating back to 2000 talking of the decline, and impending death, of the Netware product and the Novell brand.

I have been a consultant for many years, and the last time I saw a Novell shop was last millennium.

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I loved seeing windows get some competition, but you just cant beat the support behind windows. –  Troggy Jul 8 '09 at 1:00
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If you still think of Novell in terms of Netware, you don't know much about Novell. They're 100% a Linux company these days, and a pretty active contributor to the Open Source community. They fund the development of the SuSE Linux distribution, and the Mono .Net framework, for instance. –  Adam Lassek Jul 13 '09 at 23:22
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Novell easily beats the support behind Windows. Most of it 'just works'. It's nice grabbing kids out of college who know Linux and just plugging them straight into OES. "Huh? Tree?" "It's just LDAP." "Oh!" -- and you've got a Novell admin. No MSCE, et. al. –  Karl Katzke Jul 29 '09 at 2:21

My organization uses Novell products. Our mail system is Groupwise. We also use ZenWorks.

Your post was interesting to me because it marks literally the first time I've ever heard of another (specific) organization using Novell products.

I think they may have a larger customer base in Europe than in the U.S.

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Yah, my old employer had all the main products in use (Groupwise, Zenworks, etc.) also. –  Troggy Jul 8 '09 at 1:02

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