January 31, 2001, 11:22 AM — Now that Windows 2000 appears to be gaining momentum among the Windows NT faithful, Microsoft Corp.'s nascent operating system is getting a hard look from another constituency: NetWare users. Whether it's out of a desire to consolidate network operating systems, uncertainty about Novell Inc.'s long-term viability or the desire to run applications such as Exchange 2000 that require Active Directory, at least some longtime NetWare users are mulling a move to Windows 2000.
The number of users migrating from NetWare to Windows 2000 "is not going to be massive, but I think it is going to be steady, and we are starting to see the first trickle," says Laura DiDio, an analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Giga Information Group Inc.
The issues involved in migrating from NetWare to Windows 2000 are very different from those encountered when upgrading from Windows NT.
NetWare administrators face a much more laborious task in moving users over to the new infrastructure. But if their staffs are well-versed in Novell Directory Services (NDS), that may actually give these companies a head start over NT users in implementing Windows 2000's Active Directory -- which is a major undertaking in itself.
"Migrating [from NetWare] to Windows 2000 is something that should not be done quickly," says Scott Poole, Windows 2000 technical product leader at IBM Global Services in Austin, Texas.
"What we are seeing is large enterprises are most assuredly laying down the cornerstones for the migration." he says. "My belief is this time next year, the large-scale rollouts will start happening because people will be ready."
NetWare users will find that the move isn't cheap: Michael Silver, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group Inc., pegs the average total cost of migrating from NetWare 4.x to Windows 2000 at $430 per user, with $178 of that for labor costs alone. That adds up to more than $1 million for a 2,500-user LAN. "It's a little more expensive than going from NT 4," Silver says, adding that these costs assume that 70 percent of servers will need to be replaced.
Today, it's not typically the hard-core NetWare shops that are taking the plunge, says DiDio. Companies that have built their application infrastructures around NDS and are using Novell's ZENworks for desktop management and GroupWise for messaging aren't likely to budge. But even the hard-core NetWare shops are already familiar with Windows NT: Most run Windows NT systems as application servers.
Companies Computerworld spoke with about migrating to Windows 2000 were either using older versions of NetWare (as far back as NetWare 3.2) or had mixed NetWare 4.x and NetWare 5.x environments.
Older versions use Novell's proprietary IPX transport protocol. Moving to a pure, native Internet Protocol environment requires a significant migration effort.