Web Informant #98, 22 January 1998
Microsoft: deal with NDS for NT, puh-leeze!


Sometimes our industry has no memory of history. Take the recent jihad of Microsoft towards Novell's Directory Services for NT. Not only is this crusade completely misdirected and bad for corporate users of both NT and NetWare, but it couldn't come at a worse time for the Company That Everyone Hates. When Maureen Dowd starts doing columns on His Billness, it is time to pick another horse to whip?

I've been covering this industry for close to a dozen years. I can't count the number of Microsoft vs. Novell stories. (Ring 0? IPX licensing? DR DOS? Win95 client? The list is depressingly long.) Sometimes the fault has been Novell's for the bad behavior, but most of the time the conflict started with Microsoft. And the current story is just another (and spectacular) example of how wrong Microsoft is. Forgive me for venturing into familiar territory here, but this latest foray is so irksome.

For those of you that haven't been following this particular little chestnut, here is the synopsis. After many years of delay and promises, Novell finally has a pretty decent piece of software that allows NT machines to participate in its enterprise directory. And just in the nick of time, too, as NDS is finally coming into its own in corporate America. Many companies are still using NetWare in large numbers, and need the features of NDS to administer their systems. NDS isn't an option anymore. And more to the point, NDS does its job in terms of working across many different operating system platforms and delivering some solid benefits.

Microsoft put out some spew here on their website in early January, but quickly changed it to this, a somewhat more moderate tone. Days later, they watered it down to this document, which I far as know is still there.

The documents say basically that they don't want anyone to use NDS for NT. They claim, wrongly, that they can't test what Novell has done (really? Did they run out of lab space in Redmond?) and furthermore won't support any of their NT customers who will install the product on their systems. This is complete and utter crap. Microsoft is making a big mistake here.

Grow up, Microsoft: who ever made this decision should be sent to work in Janet Reno's office as a temp. Learn to live with NDS for NT. Deal with it. NDS for NT isn't going away just because you want it to. NDS for NT is better than anything Microsoft sells right now. Telling people to wait a year (or more) until Microsoft releases NT 5.0 or 6.0 or whatever isn't helpful. And carping on Novell for installing a DLL in the \windows\system directory is like the pot calling the kettle black: have you seen how many DLLs Word 97 installs in the very same place? Get real, Microsoft!

Now, I'd love to see an overall ban on any application installing system DLLs, but that isn't the reality of my Windows existence. Anyone who tests products for a living will tell you that they have to set up a clean NT machine - one without any applications on it - if they are going to try to isolate problems from new applications. It is a fact of life.

NDS for NT may be the new Satan for Microsoft but it is useful for those corporations that want to run Windows applications on a (more) stable platform than 95 and have grown impatient with ever seeing these applications come to NetWare. Microsoft needs to stop acting like some petulant child and remember that its customers need to get some real work done. In the meantime, I gotta go reboot and get rid of some error on my Win95 machine.

Note: a copy of this essay has appeared on the Chicago Tribune web site.

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David Strom
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