LAN Manager Was A Dog Straight Out Of The Box

lanmOne of the most confusing issues concerning Windows NT has been the degree of networking that NT will include and the role of LAN Manager in future NT-based networks. Microsoft itself has obscured the facts on occasion, referring to the network services in Windows NT as peer-to-peer when, in reality, Windows NT will include the same kind of file-server software that has traditionally been provided in LAN Manager.

That server software will be limited to serving single-domain networks of DOS, Windows and OS/2 workstations. Networks can have any number of servers, and you can use the software on a peer-to-peer or a client/server basis. In other words, you can run the server and share your local hard disk, and run the client and access other servers, or you can simply dedicate a few machines as servers. The software doesn’t limit the number of users supported, as LAN Manager has in the past.

You’ll need LAN Manager for Windows NT to build multidomain networks and increased fault tolerance. You will be able to use Windows NT on a peer-to-peer basis while accessing LAN Manager for Windows NT servers, but you won’t need to buy LAN Manager for Windows NT to set up a network.

Microsoft is saying that it’s giving away LAN Manager with Windows NT because “networking is a fundamental requirement for business desktops.” That’s true, but it’s also clear that, by including free LAN Manager services with Windows NT, Microsoft is trying to change the economics of networking. And once again, we’re all wondering how Microsoft’s latest moves will affect Novell.

Microsoft has made some interesting and compelling product combinations that deserve our attention. Windows for Workgroups, Windows NT and LAN Manager for Windows NT can be used to assemble Windows-based network systems in elegant fashion. And if you’ve standardized on Windows, you must be at least interested in Microsoft’s pricing and packaging.

In spite of Microsoft’s decision to give away networking, Windows NT won’t change the market overnight. Microsoft’s decision to give away LAN Manager services could well have a positive impact on its ability to build market share and compete with Novell in the long term. But growth will be slow and incremental at best. And Novell will remain a strong competitor.

Novell owns the departmental market because of its channel. Novell built that channel, and it sells NetWare in overwhelming quantities. With LAN Manager 2.x, Microsoft realized how difficult it will be to make even a dent in Novell’s channel.

But Microsoft needs to build a channel if its new products are to succeed. And giving network software away, which cuts into the margins the channel can earn on such products, may not be the best approach. It could actually dissuade the channel from pushing Microsoft’s network solutions at all.

More important, Microsoft has occasionally tried to give LAN Manager 2.1 away to customers, and they’ve chosen to buy NetWare instead. LAN Manager isn’t a success today because it doesn’t offer an overwhelming difference in comparison with NetWare. In fact, there are areas in which NetWare outshines LAN Manager. With no overwhelming advantage and no channel that advocates its use, LAN Manager has floundered. Many users say that by giving it away, Microsoft has finally figured out what LAN Manager is really worth.

Putting LAN Manager on NT doesn’t change that fact. While they’re certainly running on a platform that’s more appealing than OS/2 1.x, Microsoft’s new products still won’t have a global directory service, the robust authentication services that come with a directory or comprehensive network management. In other words, just because it’s decided to give away a product few seem to want, Microsoft won’t steamroll Novell — or Banyan, for that matter.


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