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NetWare and the Distributed Enterprise

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NetWare: Superb new version that extends management and services to remote locations

NetWare 6.5 is scheduled to be released later this month. We offer a sneak peek at the latest version of this operating system that seeks to fulfill the vision of the distributed enterprise.

Novell has always included server functionality with NetWare. It also supported Macintosh, IBM 3270, Unix and from the beginning. Novell continues this strategy with NetWare 6.5, providing access to network resources from any Web browser and enabling workers to access and synchronize data no matter where they are.

This review is based on our experience with the public release beta of NetWare 6.5. The production release is scheduled to hit the shelves August 15. In more than a week of testing, we encountered no freezes or problems with the late beta code, a good sign for the stability of the final version.

The 6.5 version number is a puzzling though, as NetWare 6.5 is a big jump from NetWare 6 in its capabilities and functionality, and it contains more than enough features to justify a jump to a new number.

New features include Open Source server applications; SSH access to network resources; Novell’s Virtual Office; a secure Web portal for users to access their data, e-mail, and printers from anywhere; an improved version of iFolder, which enables users to access and synchronize their data on multiple PCs; fibre channel and iSCSI support; Nterprise branch office functionality that allows remote installation, management, and synchronization of branch office servers; IPv6 support; remote administration; and updates and backup/restore for better support of branch offices. The list of new and improved features runs to six pages. Obviously, we can cover only some of them here, with details on the new features later in the story.

While previous versions of NetWare used proprietary Web and database servers, 6.5 provides Open Source servers and scripting hosts — Apache 2.0.45, MySQL 4.0.12, Perl 5.8, PHP 4.2.3, and Tomcat 4.1.18. This move means that administrators and network architects can deploy the same software on Linux, Windows, and NetWare servers, and they can leverage skills developed by Linux developers while gaining the strong authentication available on NetWare.

Installing NetWare 6.5 is simple and shouldn’t be intimidating, even for administrators unfamiliar with the product. The first choice to make is whether to do a streamlined install or a customized one. Like their names imply, a streamlined installation essentially installs all the functionality available, while a customized one lets you select the server applications you wish to install from a long list that includes Web server, Tomcat application server, DHCP/DNS server, file/print server, and backup server. You can install one kind of server, or all of them.

Next, specify network information such as IP addresses. IPX/SPX is still optional, although not installed by default. Finally, you can join an existing NDS tree or create a new one, name the server, specify security standards, and install the license file, specify server application settings if you are installing them, and finish the installation.

Once the server is up and running, you can perform administrative tasks on the server itself or remotely — there is very little difference. Remote management is run from a browser on the server or from a workstation. The same access is provided to the server either way. Likewise, ConsoleOne can be run from either the server or a workstation.

Results of our testing found Web server performance was similar to Linux (Apache) and Windows (IIS), and performance was better on file access and printing. In addition, configuring the server applications was very easy with GUI utilities to configure Apache, Tomcat, MySQL, and the other server applications. Linux vendors would do well to license the administrative utilities, as they make configuring the server applications much easier.

New Features of Note in NetWare 6.5

OpenSSH access to network resources is available to remote access servers, copy files, and for scripting of remote tasks. Security is enhanced beyond the usual SSH with stronger encryption and encrypted passwords.

Novell’s Virtual Office allows users to access data, print, use network applications, and virtually re-create the environment they would have on a local computer, from any Web browser located anywhere, with good security and authentication. This functionality alone makes the upgrade worthwhile for any enterprise with a mobile workforce.

An improved version of iFolder enables users to access and synchronize data on multiple PCs, taking into account the speed of the connection to keep a desktop, laptop, handheld, or remote (home) system up to date with the same data available on the other systems.

Nterprise branch office functionality and additional remote management utilities make supporting branch offices easier with simplified remote server administration, automatic updates to server software, improved synchronization and backup/restore utilities, and automatic replication of data back to the central office over a standard Internet connection.

The Novell Modular Authentication Service supports a wide variety of security standards for passwords, including X.509 Advanced Certificate, CertMutual, Digest-MD5, enhanced password, Entrust, NDS, and simple passwords.

Scripting products provide server-side scripting for Web sites using PHP, Perl, Novell Script for NetWare (VBScript compatible server side scripting language), and Universal Component System (UCS), which provides an interface to develop applications using any scripting language and any component on the network. UCS enables NSN, Perl 5 for NetWare, Java, C/C++, and others, to access UCX (Universal Component eXtensions) components, Java classes and Beans, and ActiveX controls, using a single interface.

New server applications in NetWare 6.5 include Novell Nsure UDDI Server for Web services, Java Beans for Novell Services, exteNd Application Server (formerly SilverStream), and the NetWare Web Search Server.

Scalability and availability improvements include storage management applications, iSCSI and fibre channel support, and clustering support for up to 32 nodes. Two-node clusters can be set up without any additional licensing cost. Support for blade servers has also been added.

Users will like eGuide 2.1.1, which while not new, makes accessing address book information across multiple directories easier than ever. iPrint is also improved, making it easy to print to local or remote printers from the user’s workstation or from a browser anywhere. File versioning allows users to recover previously saved versions of files themselves, and Virtual Teams is collaboration software that enables users to set up ad hoc groups themselves.

The Server/Storage Consolidation Utility may be of interest to Windows NT systems administrators. In addition to allowing for consolidating and upgrading multiple NetWare 4.1 and later servers to NetWare 6.5, it can also migrate Windows NT servers to a NetWare 5.1, 6.0, or 6.5 servers, maintaining user and group permissions, copying data, and maintaining or translating printer information. The utility can also merge NDS trees and add Windows Domain and AD users to a tree.

Any enterprise with multiple offices or mobile workers who are often in different locations or working from home should investigate NetWare 6.5. This latest version truly leverages open standards and the Internet to provide functionality well beyond what is available from any other vendor.

Pros: Excellent set of server applications;
Superb file/print performance, as always;
Fulfills the vision of the distributed enterprise better than any other operating system
Cons: Political rather than technical — Novell NetWare is perceived as a file/print server, not an application server, which is something that could change with the open standards supported in this version

Reviewed by: Logan Harbaugh
Original Review Date: 8/7/2003
Original Review Version: 6.5

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