Data Centers

Escape IIS problems with the NetWare Enterprise Web Server

As IIS has become a popular target for hackers, Gartner suggests companies find an alternative. John Sheesley explains how NetWare provides one reliable platform in Enterprise Web Server.


Gartner recently advised that if you’re using IIS as the basis for your Web platform, you should "…immediately investigate alternatives to IIS." This was the company's nice way of saying that if you’re running IIS on your Web servers, run away—run away fast! The question is: Where do you run?

When you have NetWare running on your network, you only have to dash over to your server. NetWare includes a good Web server that's really underrated. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll show you how you can configure your NetWare server to also act as a Web server.

NetWare can act as a Web server? Since when?
NetWare is a great platform for file and print services, but for some reason, it has also been slapped with the label of ineffective when it comes to Internet services, which isn't completely true. Novell included Web services with NetWare, beginning with intraNetWare back in 1996, which included Web Server 2.5 for free instead of offering it as a separate package. Even for the mid-90s, Web Server 2.5 didn’t offer many features around which to build a successful Web site, but at least Novell tried. The company created an upgrade called Web Server 3.1 with many more features than Web Server 2.5, but it didn’t gain much traction either.

With its first effort floundering, Novell looked for alternatives to help turn NetWare into a successful platform for Web services. At the time, the big three alternatives were IIS, Apache, and Netscape. IIS was then at version 2.0 and controlled by Microsoft. Therefore, the chances of it being ported to NetWare were less than zero. As for Apache, remember in the mid-90s, businesses were still unsure about open source software. Because Novell targeted NetWare for business, it didn’t want to risk NetWare’s reputation for reliability with software that was then viewed as being unreliable because it was coded in somebody’s basement.

Which left Novell with Netscape. In 1996 and 1997, Netscape was an independent company, viewed as being the next Microsoft-killer. It also had software that ran on several versions of UNIX as well as Windows NT. To Novell, it only made logical sense to port Netscape to NetWare.

In 1997, Novell and Netscape created a joint venture called Novonyx whose job was to port Netscape’s software to the NetWare platform. Novonyx then ported both the Netscape FastTrack Server and the Netscape Enterprise Web Server. After Sun purchased Netscape, Novell took over duties at Novonyx and ultimately closed the project.

Novell shipped FastTrack Server with NetWare 5.0 and sold Enterprise Web Server as an upgrade. When Novell shipped NetWare 5.1, it included Enterprise Web Server in the box and gave NetWare 5.0, NetWare 4.2, and intraNetWare users the option of downloading and installing Enterprise Web Server for free.

The NetWare Enterprise Web Server is based on the Netscape Enterprise Server 3.6. After Sun purchased Netscape, the company changed the name of the Netscape servers to iPlanet. The current version of iPlanet Web Server Enterprise Edition is 6.0, so you can’t expect the NetWare Enterprise Web Server to be as feature complete as iPlanet. However, iPlanet costs $1,495 per CPU, while the NetWare Enterprise Web Server came free with NetWare 5.1.

Author's note
Because Novell offers the Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare as a free upgrade for NetWare 5.0, NetWare 4.11/4.2, and intraNetWare users, I won’t be discussing the Web servers that shipped with those NetWare versions for the rest of this Daily Drill Down. I’ll only discuss the features in Enterprise Web Server and how to install Enterprise Web Server on your NetWare 5.1 server. If you’re running an earlier version of NetWare, you can obtain Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare by going to Novell’s Support Web site. The Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare is an earlier version of the NetWare Enterprise Web Server, so most of the concepts I'll discuss in the rest of this Daily Drill Down will apply to that version as well.

What can Enterprise Web Server do for me?
Enterprise Web Server allows you to create a full-fledged Web site on your NetWare server. It supports CGI scripts, Netscape plug-ins, PERL, Java, and even Active Server Pages. It also supports WebDAV, which you can use in conjunction with Office 2000 for content management without needing any special client software.

If you want to build a Web site that connects to a back-end database, you’re in luck. NetWare Enterprise Server supports both ODBC and Java Database Connectivity (JDBC).

From a security standpoint, Enterprise Web Server supports SSL validation like any other Web server. Additionally, because Enterprise Web Server runs on top of NetWare, Novell also included NDS support.

You can also use the Enterprise Web Server to build complete e-commerce solutions around your NetWare server. NetWare 5.1 includes IBM WebSphere, which is a very popular e-commerce application, and a solid FTP and NNTP server for file transfer and Usenet support. As if that wasn’t enough, NetWare 5.1 includes the NetWare Multimedia Server for streaming media such as MPG, RM, or WAV files.

The NetWare Enterprise Web Server can support multiple Web servers on a single NetWare 5.1 server. You can configure it to respond differently to requests depending upon the URL, even though the server only has one IP address. For example, on one server you could serve different pages for http://www.techrepublic.com and http://www.techproguild.com.

Installing NetWare Enterprise Web Server
You can install NetWare Enterprise Web Server as a part of NetWare 5.1’s regular setup. However, if you didn’t install it at that time, you can go back and do it now. You'll just need your original NetWare 5.1 CD-ROM. If you’ve applied any support packs, make sure you have them copied to your server, as well.

Before you install NetWare Enterprise Web Server on your server, make sure you have enough disk space. The amount of total space it will take varies depending on the additional components you install. The minimum amount of disk space needed per component is as follows:
  • NetWare Enterprise Web Server—85 MB
  • NetWare Web Manager—30 MB
  • NetWare News Server—62 MB
  • NetWare FTP Server—500 Kb
  • WebSphere Application Server—48 MB
  • NetWare Web Search—2 MB
  • NetWare Multimedia Server—1 MB

Mount the CD-ROM in the server. Start NetWare’s NWConfig utility by typing load nwconfig and pressing [Enter]. Select Product Options from the Configuration Options screen and press [Enter]. When the Product Options menu appears, select View/Configure/Remove Installed Products and press [Enter].

You’ll then see the Currently Installed Products screen. Check the list to see if NWWebSrv appears. If it’s on the list, the NetWare Enterprise Web Server is already installed.

If you don’t see NWWebSrv on the list, press [Insert] to install a new product. You’ll then be able to choose the path on which you’ve loaded the CD. If you’ve previously loaded things from your NetWare CD-ROM, you’ll see the Previously Specified Paths screen. Choose the path and press [Enter]. If you haven’t loaded things from your NetWare CD-ROM or don’t see the file on the list, you’ll have to press [F3] and specify a new path. After you enter the path, press [Enter] to confirm it and start the installation.

For a few minutes, you’ll see a File Copy Status screen appear as some temporary files are loaded on your server. Then, the NetWare 5.1 GUI will display the Components window. On this screen, you can select the Web components you want to install. For the purposes of this Daily Drill Down, I’ll only select the NetWare Enterprise Web Server. If you select others, you’ll see other screens while the components are installing than the ones I'm going to discuss. Select the Components you want and click Next.

You’ll then see a Login window. Enter your administrator ID and password in the appropriate fields. You also may need to enter your NDS tree and context in the Tree and Context fields. Click OK to log in to your server and continue.

Next, the Novell Certificate Server 2.02 Objects screen appears. On this screen, you tell the installation wizard where to copy Organizational Certificate Authority NDS objects. You’ll also need to specify a path for the Trusted Root Certificate. You can accept the defaults here. Click Next to continue.

The NetWare Enterprise Web Server Settings screen then appears where you specify the default TCP/IP ports on which the Web server will listen. You’ll see the standard TCP/IP ports of 80 for regular connections and 443 for secure connections in the Regular and Secure fields. It’s best to leave the default settings unless you have a reason to change them, such as wanting to use nonstandard ports that hackers might not be able to find. Additionally, in the Optional Settings box, you’ll see a high utilization check box. Only select this if your server has more than 256 MB of RAM and will be used heavily for Web access. Click Next to continue.

You’ll then see the NetWare Web Manager Settings screen where you'll manage the NetWare Enterprise Web Server after you install it. On this screen, you’ll specify the TCP/IP port on which the Web Manager listens. By default, the Web Manager listens on port 2200.

You can leave this setting at the default, but changing it might not be a bad idea, because 2200 is a standard port and is used for managing, so a hacker may know to look for this port. Change it to something higher than 2200 by entering a new value in the Port Number field. However, make sure you note the new port or you won’t be able to manage your Web site later. Click Next to continue.

You’ll then see the Summary screen, which displays all of your choices. Press Finish to complete the installation. The installation program will copy files to your server and modify your NDS tree as necessary. After the files copy, you’ll see an Installation Complete window. You can view the README file by clicking View. Click Close to end the installation.

The installation program will leave you on the NetWare 5.1 GUI. Even though there are no other indications that the installation is complete, it is. Press [Ctrl][Esc] to switch screens back to NWConfig. You’ll then have to reapply your latest support pack and restart your server.

After that, when your server restarts, just go to your client workstation, fire up a browser, and enter the address for your server. You’ll see the default Web page for the NetWare Enterprise Web Server appear. You can then go to the NetWare Web Manager and start customizing your Web site. In upcoming Daily Drill Downs, I’ll show you how to use NetWare Web Manager to do so.

Conclusion
In an age of uncertainty concerning security, NetWare Enterprise Web Server offers an alternative to IIS for running your Web site. As a NetWare administrator, you’ve already paid for NetWare Enterprise Web Server, so installing and checking it out won’t cost you any more than a little bit of time. I'm sure you’ll find it to be a viable and reliable alternative to IIS.

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