A trip to Utah becomes a glimpse into a novel Novell NetWare world

Packet Rat
R. Fink


A trip to Utah becomes a glimpse into a novel Novell NetWare world


The Rat went to Novell Inc.’s BrainShare fest in Salt Lake City late last month
expecting nothing hotter than the Novell employees’ chili cook-off. But the crowds
were huge and the passion palpable.


Novell users were obviously turned on to NetWare 5. The cyberrodent sniffed out the
news that the company’s latest network operating system has the fastest adoption rate
since NetWare 3.


“Maybe it’s just that users really didn’t like NetWare 4.1,” the
Rat mused. But there was no cynicism among the Novell faithful having a hot time in the
Salt Palace party zone.


The buzz was less about NetWare than about Novell Directory Services. Novell has
finally found its new calling: a little directory assistance.


Chief executive officer Eric Schmidt got a standing ovation when he came on stage for
his keynote speech. Someone even shouted, “We love you, Eric!” like a starstruck
teen-ager.


Although Schmidt’s delivery could never be compared with a rock star’s, he
made up for his less-than-electric presence by bragging about the ZENworks system
management tool, the growth of GroupWise messaging to 17 million seats and a NetWare 2
server that has been running without a crash for nine years.


But when Schmidt began unveiling Novell’s short-term plans, the Rat swore he could
hear cruise missiles swooshing toward a certain company headquarters in the state of
Washington.


First, Schmidt promised that a new version of NDS would be out for Microsoft Windows
NT—no NetWare required—before Microsoft’s own Active Directory even makes
an appearance. Unlike NT domains’ hard limit, NDS Version 8—code-named SKADS for
scalable, kick-ass directory service—can handle up to 1 billion users and devices.


Yep, he said a Carl Sagan billion. A directory search took less than a second.
That’s hard for a product that’s not shipping.


Kaboom.


Also, Schmidt said, there will be a SunSoft Solaris version of NDS 8. The Rat pictured
a directory running on a Sun UltraSparc multiprocessing server and drooled.


Kaboom.


Then there was the next release of NetWare 5, code-named Six Pack. It’ll come
bundled with the IBM WebSphere Java application server, Oracle’s Oracle8i WebDB
database tool, Netscape Communication Corp.’s Web server and the new directory
service. Six Pack will have Hypertext Transfer Protocol access to server files and Web
browser configuration. And it’ll probably arrive before Windows 2000.


Kaboom.


To wrap things up, Schmidt demonstrated DigitalMe technology that gives users control
over personal data stored in a secure directory—an NDS directory, by the way. It can
hold digital certificates, and it has a secure drop-box for guaranteed delivery.


Cool was the only word to describe the next 20 minutes as the audience watched a demo
of DigitalMe. A scalable, user-configurable, public-key directory service that integrates
with everything from e-mail to electronic commerce might bury electronic data interchange
and make public-key certificates practical at last.


The Rat’s favorite part, however, was hearing the rumor that Novell will port NDS
and DigitalMe to Linux. Novell has just put money into Red Hat Software Inc. of Research
Triangle Park, N.C.—an ironic investment, because it’s Caldera Inc. of Orem,
Utah, that publishes NetWare for Linux. Novell must have gotten tired of dealing with
other companies founded by Ray Noorda.


Maybe, just maybe, Linux world domination will come about thanks to Novell.


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.



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