Few would argue that NetWare has been dealt a heavy blow in recent years as many companies have embraced Windows NT/2000. But the tide may be about to turn. With the release of NetWare 6, Novell is attempting to change our vision of NetWare's role in our corporate networks. I’m going to give you a closer look at NetWare 6 to see how Novell is translating this vision into reality.
Management tools, old and new
A first look at NetWare 6 reveals that it is very similar to NetWare 5.2 in terms of the management interface. The multiplatform ConsoleOne is still available on both the server and client, along with its sluggish, Java-driven interface. The Microsoft Windows-based NWAdmin utility is still there despite Novell’s desire to transition its functions to ConsoleOne. However, the one major improvement we see from the management side is the Web-based Remote Manager tool (previously known as the Management Portal). Figures A and B provide a look at this extensive and flexible tool.
While this tool was available with NetWare 5.1, the improvements in NetWare 6, such as built-in remote console abilities and the addition of NDS management and troubleshooting tools like DSRepair, make it a very appealing way to manage your servers.
Improved processing and file systems
Under the hood of NetWare 6, we see that Novell’s magic number is 32: NetWare 6 features improved symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) and clustering with the ability to support 32 processors and 32 servers per cluster. The NSS file system has been improved with support for the SYS volume and user quotas.
File and print services
But the real changes for users occur with iPrint and iFolder, which include a new option that eliminates the need to preinstall NetWare Client software before accessing any NetWare printers or shares.
IPrint is Novell’s implementation of the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP), and it allows users to print from anywhere on the Internet to Novell networked printers using eNDPS. The interface can be set to display the available printers in a floor map format (Figure C), making things even easier for users.
IFolder is the other main component of Novell’s traditional file and print services. It allows users to access their data files from anywhere and from any platform via the Internet using a secure SSL session and blowfish encryption. Figure D shows a logical diagram of how iFolder works, and Figure E shows iFolder in action.
Upon accessing iFolder and iPrint from a Windows desktop, the client machine is prompted to install some basic software. Although iFolder does allow access to Novell services if you don't have any NetWare software installed or if you use a slimmed-down version of the client software, this limits the services that you can use.
Installing NetWare 6 on a test network went without a hitch, as did an in-place upgrade of a NetWare 5.1 server with GroupWise 5.5e. The same upgrade paths are available for NetWare 6 that were available with Netware 5.1, and the install process is very similar. Servers loaded with NetWare 6 seem to play well with NetWare 5.1 and NetWare 4.11, both of which are still fairly prevalent in the corporate world. NDS/eDirectory synchronization in NetWare 6 does not seem to suffer any problems with NDS version differences either, so long as you are fairly up to date with service packs on your older NetWare servers.
Popular opinion seems to be that Novell is in trouble and will continue down a difficult road if it doesn't halt Microsoft’s encroachment onto its NOS turf.
Novell’s first step in this offensive was a large marketing blitz about its “One Net” initiative. At first, the direction and objectives of One Net were vague and practically indiscernible, but Novell’s plans are much clearer with the advent of NetWare 6. With its support for multiplatform environments and its ability to allow users to access services through the Internet, One Net is clearly pulling NetWare away from its proprietary roots.
All things considered, it looks like the One Net campaign is more than just a spiffy catchphrase. In fact, it now seems to have more definition than Microsoft’s well-hyped .NET initiative. Most initial reviews indicate that Novell might just have more fight left in it than anyone thought. NetWare 6 may be Novell’s best—and possibly its last—hope of a strong comeback in the NOS battleground.
What do you think about NetWare 6?
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