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Now What? — The Novell Certifications

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Now what? The decision to pursue a vendor's IT certification can be very confusing, time-consuming, and expensive. By addressing this question, Warren Wyrostek hopes that you will have the information you need to decide if the answer to your "Now what?" question is Novell certification.

Now What? The Novell Certifications

Now what? This was the question I was faced with in late 1994, when my employer told me that she wanted me to install, administer, configure, and manage a new Novell network. I had no idea what a Novell network was; nor did I know how to install, administer, configure, or manage one. I asked for training and was told NO. So I spent my own money, and took the first of many authorized Novell courses. After my first day in class, I had an answer to the Now what? question. Within two weeks, I was a Novell CNA; soon thereafter, I was a CNE. I have since earned four of Novell's Master CNE titles as well as the Novell CNI and Master CNI. When I teach non-Novell classes, inevitably the students ask me questions about Novell. There are four questions that I am traditionally asked:

  • What is Novell, and what is the difference between Novell and Microsoft?

  • Why should I get Novell-certified? What are the benefits, and what can I expect upon completion of the process?

  • What training options are available?

  • What certifications are available, and what are the requirements?

The decision to pursue a vendor's IT certification can be very confusing, time-consuming, and expensive. My reasons will not necessarily be yours. However, by addressing these four questions, I hope that you will have the information you need to decide if the answer to your Now what? question is Novell certification.

What is Novell, and What Is the Difference Between Novell and Microsoft?

Everyone that knows that I teach and write about IT automatically assumes that I have a professional relationship of some sort with Microsoft. When I am out in the public and I want to be identified as an IT professional, I wear a shirt with a Microsoft or a Prosoft CIW logo. When I wear shirts with the Novell logo, I rarely if ever have to field questions or comments. That was not always the case. In fact, about two or three years ago, the opposite was true. Novell, up to 1998 when NetWare 5 was released, was the vendor that everyone flocked to for a network operating system. Novell had the largest installed base of all network operating systems. It is still one of the largest distributors of network operating systems. Novell currently bills itself as "a leading provider of Net services software that secures and powers all types of networks—intranets, the Internet, and extranets; corporate and public; wired to wireless—as one Net, across leading operating systems."

The major feature of Novell's current operating system, NetWare 5.1, is the robust, scalable, and time-tested Novell Directory Services, also known as NDS. NDS is a centralized, hierarchical, relational database of all network resources, including e-mail resources and Windows NT resources and domains. NDS, along with numerous product features (for example, Novell Distributed Print Services and ZENWorks), distinguish the NetWare 5.1 operating system as a system that can be utilized in all-sized networks and in most environments. There are national and international regions that have written Novell off because of poor marketing or superior Microsoft marketing. One example is the government of the state of Florida.

Florida had a huge installed NetWare base up to a few years ago. Because of Microsoft marketing and legislative decisions, the infrastructure of the state is being converted from Novell to Microsoft—at a huge expense. In other parts of the U.S., Microsoft is being dismissed and Novell is being courted. Novell should not be written off. Novell is not dead, despite what many IT professionals claim. It has produced network operating systems that have been in production for many years, and will remain in production for many years to come.

Having worked on Microsoft's Windows 2000 platform for close to a year, I can say without reservation that there is not a great deal of product difference between NetWare and Windows 2000, although NetWare's Directory Services is the more mature and robust of the two. There are interface differences, but both are solid, scalable operating systems. Both the Windows 2000 Active Directory Services and the Novell Directory Services enable administrators to centrally manage resources. The main difference between Microsoft and Novell is that Microsoft has learned how to market its product, and Novell is still fumbling with marketing and sales strategies. Personally, I think Novell has created a poor perception, not because of product issues, but due to its marketing strategies. Because I understand that the product is a solid product with poor marketing, I have decided to continue teaching Novell classes and administering Novell networks.

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