What do you do if you need to check or dismount a volume right now and don’t have RConsole loaded on your server? Unless your server is close enough for you to walk over to it, you might be out of luck.

That is, unless you’re running NetWare 5.x. This version of NetWare contains a built-in management tool that you may not be aware of—the NetWare Management Portal. Using the NetWare Management Portal and a simple Web browser on just about any client workstation, you can have full control over your NetWare servers.

Why do I need the NetWare Management Portal?
Though some people may not be familiar with the NetWare Management Portal, it was introduced at the same time as NetWare 5.1. It’s a Web-based administration utility that allows you to do via the Web just about anything you can do from the server’s console prompt, and you can remotely monitor and administer it from any computer with a Web browser.

Sounds a lot like the description for RConsole, doesn’t it? In some ways, the NetWare Management Portal is like RConsole. As a matter of fact, you can directly access the server console from the NetWare Management Portal, just like with RConsole. The difference is that the NetWare Management Portal allows you to do more things than RConsole, because it does more than just allow you to remotely access your server and see what’s going on. Additionally, RConsole requires you to be on the same network as your server.

Although you can access your server from the Internet if you’re using RConsole’s Java cousin, RConsoleJ, RConsoleJ isn’t nearly as flexible as the NetWare Management Portal. For more information about RConsoleJ, see the Daily Drill Down “Administer your NetWare server remotely using RConsoleJ.”

While the NetWare Management Portal allows you to access the server console the way RConsole does, it also displays the status of many of your server’s parameters the way that Console Monitor NLM does. However, because it’s a Web-based administration utility, the NetWare Management Portal also has the advantage of being graphical. This graphical interface makes it easier to understand and navigate than Monitor’s 1980s-style text menus.

With the best parts of RConsole and Monitor rolled into it, the NetWare Management Portal provides easy network administration. Some of its key features include:

  • Accessing and transferring files on volumes and your server’s DOS partition.
  • Checking general server health.
  • Configuring server SET parameters.
  • Creating subdirectories on your volumes.
  • Downing and restarting your server.
  • Managing server connections.
  • Monitoring hardware configurations.
  • Mounting and dismounting volumes.
  • Purging deleted files.
  • Viewing the server console screen.
  • Viewing the status of all loaded modules.
  • Viewing and deleting objects in the NDS tree.

Preparing to run the NetWare Management Portal
If you’re running NetWare 5.1 on your server, the NetWare Management Portal loads automatically when you start your server. You don’t need to worry about configuring anything to make it work. You just need to have TCP/IP configured on your server.

You can make sure that your NetWare 5.1 server is ready to use the NetWare Management Portal by checking your server’s AUTOEXEC.NCF file. You can do so by going to the server’s console prompt, typing load edit autoexec.ncf, and pressing [Enter]. When AUTOEXEC.NCF appears, read through the file and look for a line that reads load portal. This is the command that loads the NetWare Management Portal. If you don’t know for sure if your server runs TCP/IP, you can also look for a load tcpip command. Note the server’s TCP/IP address because you’ll need to know it later.

One of the nice things about the NetWare Management Portal is that you can access it from workstations running OSs other than Windows as long as the workstation is running TCP/IP. Novell recommends using a workstation running Netscape 4.5 or later or Internet Explorer 5.0 or later. I was able to display several screens using Opera 5.2. Jack Wallen, TechProGuild’s Linux track editor, was even able to log in and use the NetWare Management Portal using Konqueror on his RedHat 7.2 beta workstation. Since the NetWare Management Portal supports this configuration, it will probably also support Windows 9x, Windows NT/2000, Macintosh, or most Linux distributions. To further show how flexible the NetWare Management Portal is, for the rest of this Daily Drill Down, I’ll show you screens generated on an OS/2 workstation running Netscape 4.61 for OS/2.

Getting connected
To access the NetWare Management Portal, open your workstation’s Web browser. In the Address field, also known as the Location field on Netscape browsers, type the DNS or TCP/IP address for your NetWare server in the following format:

Replace servernameaddr with either the server’s DNS name or TCP/IP address and press [Enter]. You’ll then see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure A.

Figure A
You can manage your NetWare 5.1 server from any workstation using your Web browser.

This screen was captured from a NetWare 5.1 server running Support Pack 3. The exact screen on your NetWare server may vary. I’ve seen screens that looked slightly different on NetWare servers running other Support Pack levels.

Novell designed the screen to have a clean interface. In the upper left-hand corner, you’ll see the NDS name of the server to which you’ve connected next to a stoplight. The stoplight tells you at a glance whether or not everything’s running well on your server. A green light means that everything is fine. A yellow light indicates that something is wrong and that you should check the Health monitors. If you see a red light, something is severely wrong and you’ll probably need to check the server and resolve it.

In the top center, the current NetWare version that’s running on your server is listed along with the amount of time the server has been up. Along the left-hand side of the screen, you’ll see the options from which you can choose. Sections that you can administer in the NetWare Management Portal include:

  • Volume Management—The options in this section allow you to control many aspects of your server’s hard drives. Here, you can check the status of the volumes, find out the volume names, and check volume attributes. You can even mount and dismount volumes. This section also allows you to make changes right down to the file and subdirectory level, including transferring files, creating and deleting subdirectories, and purging deleted files.
  • Server Management—Here, you can control the server’s configuration. You can alter the server’s SET parameters, check memory allocation, view CPU threads, and view client connections to the server. From this section, you can also send broadcast messages to your users or clear client connections. You can even shut down and restart the server from here.
  • Application Management—The Application Management section shows you information about the NLMs loaded on your server. You can see which NLMs are loaded, check their versions, and view the memory addresses that they’re using. You can even load and unload NLMs on your server.
  • NDS Management—As the name suggests, this section allows you to manage aspects of your NDS tree. You can view objects in your NDS tree along with the attributes and values of those objects. You can also view NDS partitions and replicas.
  • Remote Server Access—With this section, you can access other NetWare servers in your NDS tree. You can branch out to the NetWare Management Portals on other NetWare servers and even access the file systems of NetWare servers that aren’t running the NetWare Management Portal.
  • Hardware Management—From here, you can actually view the hardware configuration of your server. It’s detailed enough that you can find out the server’s CPU model, speed, and cache configuration. You can even view information about the PCI devices installed on your server.
  • Health Monitors—This section allows you to define custom reports to monitor the health of your server. These reports only give you three indicators: green for good, yellow for suspect, and red for bad. You can get detailed information about the items that you’re monitoring by clicking the item’s associated link. The indicators vary depending on the threshold values that you set for each item you want to monitor.

Not all of the sections have choices when you first connect to the portal because, by default, the NetWare Management Portal allows you to view some basic server information without logging in. If you want to manipulate settings, you need to log in to the portal using your NetWare user ID.

Logging in
To log in to the NetWare Management Portal, click the Login link on the left-hand side of the screen. If you’re not using Netscape or Internet Explorer, the Login link might not work. If that happens, right-click the server’s name at the top of the screen and select Open In New Window. When you try to log in, your browser may display errors about an invalid site certificate. Don’t panic if it does. The error only means that SSL isn’t configured on your server in a way that your browser can accept the certificates as being valid. The browser will, however, accept a temporary certificate from the NetWare Management Portal. The way that each browser does so differs from browser to browser. Just read the screens carefully and follow the browser’s instructions.

After finishing with the certificate information, the NetWare Management Portal will ask you to log in. Any user can log in to it, but only those users that have administrator rights can do anything other than view basic information. You should log in using the Administrator account or your personal account if it has administrator rights. Enter the user ID and password and click OK. When you do, you’ll see more management options appear on the left-hand side of the screen, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B
The NetWare Management Portal displays more options after you log in to the server.

You can now make changes to many of the settings. Be careful though because changes you make will immediately affect the server. If you don’t know the effects of a particular setting, you could cause more harm than good to the server.

The NetWare Management Portal allows you to remotely control your server from your workstation using almost any Web browser. Once you’ve discovered its many powers, you’ll find it extremely useful—especially if you have to do some remote administration work to your server and don’t have access to RConsole.