How do you hide an 800-pound gorilla? Make it compete against Microsoft Corp. The joke pretty well sums up Novell Inc.'s situation. Once undisputed king of the LAN, Novell has been overshadowed by Microsoft in the network operating system market. Ironically, Novell only left the hardware business to develop NetWare because, at the time, IBM Corp. ruled the PC industry.
How do you hide an 800-pound gorilla? Make it compete against Microsoft Corp.
The joke pretty well sums up Novell Inc.s situation. Once undisputed king of the
LAN, Novell has been overshadowed by Microsoft in the network operating system market.
Ironically, Novell only left the hardware business to develop NetWare because, at the
time, IBM Corp. ruled the PC industry.
But death notices for Novell NetWare 5 are premature. After divesting tangential
offerings such as WordPerfect, Novell has regrouped and enjoyed several profitable
quarters. In GCN surveys of government users, versions of NetWare have scored highest by
healthy margins in the areas of security and mission-critical capability.
Furthermore, Novell has a six-year lead over Microsoft in developing the Novell
Directory Service (NDS), which is fine-tuned for replication and scalability.
Another plus: Novell saw long ago that its NOSes would have to coexist with Microsoft
Windows NT on enterprise networks and took steps to ensure compatibility between NDS and
NT. NT application servers work in mixed Novell environments with minimum disruption.
The news is not so good in other areas. Organizations primarily have used NetWare 4.11
for file and print services because of its weakness as an application platform. Novell
also failed to get out its marketing message that NT does not match up well against
NetWare in reliability or security.
Furthermore, NetWare until now has looked increasingly dated with its character-based
interface and its confusing maze of administration utilities and NetWare Loadable Modules
(NLMs). It has a reputation, somewhat justified, for being clunky to use and manage.
Compared with the easy setup and management of servers with NTs graphical interface
and familiar Explorer-like windows and dialog boxes, NetWare has seemed like
Before you upgrade, consider five things
But as the GCN surveys showed, network administrators dig down below these surface
How will NetWare 5 change the picture?
Novells design goals were simple: Capitalize on strengths and mend weaknesses.
SMP capability, however, would be next to useless without the ability to allocate
NetWare 5 supports virtual memory. Earlier versions could use only the RAM present in
When a spike hits NetWare 5, the server can draw on virtual memory from disk. This
NetWare 5 finally embraces the graphical interface. Running as a Java application, its
As time goes on, Novells Java-based management tools likely will become more
Java is now an integral part of NetWare. Any application certified by Sun Microsystems
Along with support for open source code, NetWare 5 also supports the Object Request
NetWare 5 even has a sort of plug-and-play architecture. It takes a snapshot of the
Upgrading a system component or replacing a defective board is possible with a minimum
Many of these features make for a better file-and-print or application server. Novell
Although NetWare has always been a threaded environment, earlier NOSes could not run
Another piece of the application server puzzle is memory protection. For the first
Also optional is automatic NLM restart after a failure. The protected application-space
Another issue is IP support. NetWare has always used IPX packets, encapsulating any IP
Now that weve taken a look at how Novell fixed NetWares weaknesses, how did
Novell has always provided a central point to find, install and use printers across an
File operations are even more important to users than printing. Novell Storage Services
NSS volumes mount significantly faster under a new directory structure. Recovery of a
How long it takes to get back online can be crucial for mission-critical servers.
NSS not only supports larger volumes, it handles them more efficiently. The new file
Many of these performance improvements come from 64-bit interfaces and intelligent
For users who simply want to handle more files, not bigger ones, NSS can hold as many
Organizations with large data sets will consider NSS a must. Smaller organizations also
NetWare 5 presents new tools to back up and restore all files under the umbrella of
Novell has always done well in the security area. NetWare 5 authenticates via Secure
In a few months, Novell will release the Secret Store add-on, which will let developers
Besides the hot-plug PCI already mentioned, NetWare 5 also supports Intel Corp.s
These are good features, but is NetWare 5 any easier to manage than its predecessors?
Character-based tools are not the problem; finding the right tool for the job is. For
The story is much the same for the graphical tools for remote systems. Novell should
On the client side, Novell makes its case with Zero Effort Networking for users in the
To get across the message that NetWare is not just for file-and-print services anymore,
It sounds like a lot to digest, but, overall, NetWare 5 is a dream to use compared with
In the labs testing, I ran into almost no problems with performance, security or
If you run NetWare 4.1x and 3.1x servers, should you upgrade? Definitely. The only
What about new servers? If you are purchasing now, I advise ordering them with NetWare
Couple NetWare 5 with Version 2 of NDS for NT, which runs NDS natively on an NT system,
NT has more short-term usability advantages, but performance and reliability matter