Unravelling NetWare 5

Networking technology allows heterogeneous
hosts to coexist seamlessly. This is considered to be one of the biggest advantages
provided by network computing vis-a-vis host-centric computing. Corporate clients can take
advantage of this by choosing best-in-the-category product for the service that one wants
to provide to the client PCs.

High degree of availability of resources on
server is critical. Novell has the reputation of providing a robust, scalable and stable
NOS so far. NetWare 5 has been rewritten ground-up. Some reports indicate that 80% of is
totally new code and only time will prove whether Novell continues to stand to its past
reputation. The server which was tested worked fine, but one thing needs to be noted here
is that this was only a lab environment and not a real production environment. Press
reports and Novell’s site indicate that the company has already started deploying NetWare
5 for its own global network. It has also called upon its partners to switch to NetWare 5.

First looks
While NetWare 4 too was a big
leap in the computing world with the introduction of Novell Directory Services (NDS)
technology, NetWare 5 delivers more fundamental changes to Novell’s operating system than
any previous upgrade has offered so far. The OS’s kernel has been rewritten ground-up to
provide native support for TCP/IP (now no more NetWare/IP which was actually IP
encapsulated in IPX), symmetric multi-processing (SMP), memory protection, virtual memory,
file storage system capable of handling multi-gigabyte volumes with practically unlimited
file sizes, more mature enterprise-wide directory services with higher granularity and
support for LDAP version 3, and JVM (Java virtual machine) to host Java-based application
servers.

NetWare 5 also comes with bundled
applications like Oracle 8 with five-user license, Netscape Fast Track Web Server, and
Z.E.N.works to reduce the cost of desktop management. Pure IP version of NetWare 5 comes
with the necessary add-ons which are a must for running any sizable TCP/IP network-DNS
server and DHCP server. DHCP server provides facilities to manage assignment of IP
addresses to clients, and more importantly, to remotely manage and dynamically configure
TCP/IP environment of client nodes whenever they boot up.

Service Advertisement Protocol has been
aptly replaced by open standards Service Location Protocol to reduce ‘chatty’ traffic on
WAN links, thereby substantially reducing the demand for expensive bandwidth of WAN links.
Those networks where users need to go beyond their LAN stand to gain. NetWare 5 has
upgrade wizards including those for upgrading NetWare 3.12. It is a known fact that many
corporate users are satisfied with the file and print server performance delivered by
NetWare 3.12 and, therefore, never felt the need of migrating to 4.x. They will find this
wizard very useful. Backup utility has significantly improved and has now gone GUI way.

NetWare 5 also comes with public key
cryptography, digital certificates and other security services. Such services are destined
to become critical services when enterprise networks begin to grow beyond their present
boundaries to permit accessing of mission-critical applications to its extranet users.
Novell Distributed Print Services (NDPS), support for hot-plug PCI, and for I2O, are
futuristic gains that are built into NetWare 5.

Classical enhancements
MULTIPROCESSOR SUPPORT:

NetWare 5 can take advantage of multiple CPUs on your server. For example, Oracle 8, which
is shipped alongwith NetWare 5, is SMP-compliant and can run individual threads on
separate processors. This means one can now expect higher scalability and improved
response from applications.

MEMORY PROTECTION AND VIRTUAL
MEMORY SUPPORT:
Loading third-party NLMs or misbehaving applications on the
server will now not lead to server outages. If one is running thin on main memory, NetWare
will use disk memory.

JAVA VIRTUAL MACHINE: One
can now take advantage of progress in Java technology. The server now acts as a Java
machine. NetWare supports the new Java servlet specifications. A servlet runs on the
server the way an applet runs in a web browser, and therefore can be regarded as a
server-side applet. Running Java applets on web browsers has certain intrinsic problems.
It can be copied, response time for an application becomes dependent on clients and their
hardware ability and incompatibility issues arise in this world of browser wars. There is
a growing trend among developers to consider servlet technology for applications delivered
on the net. Java technology features of NetWare also support JavaBeans architecture to
facilitate distributed computing.

NEW FILE SYSTEM: NetWare 5
introduces Novell Storage System (NSS) with significant advantages. Users can choose
whether they wish to have classical NetWare file system for their volumes or they wish to
have NSS file system. NSS is a 64-bit file system allowing 8TB file size and can hold
files of up to 8 exabyte volume. NSS uses a logical partition type not tied to physical
devices.
In previous NetWare versions, mounting large volumes takes significantly long time and one
requires a lot of RAM. With NSS, mounting 100GB volume takes less than 30 seconds. And it
will need only 4MB RAM to do this job. NSS also enhances reliability (It is reported that
in Comdex ’97, 3TB volume was intentionally crashed and recovered in 10 seconds).

However, NSS presently does not support
compression capability which classical NetWare File System has evolved to. Furthermore,
currently, it supports a minimum block size of 64KB. The company has planned service packs
to address these issues.

DNS/DHCP SERVERS: Managing
IP networks is not as simple a task as it may seem at a first glance, no matter which
technology you use-NT, Unix or NetWare. Assigning IP addresses to client PCs, providing
various parameters like gateway IP address, DNS server IP address, netmask etc while
installing TCP/IP stack, and later managing these on an on-going basis demands a lot of
time on the part of network administrators. It is here that DHCP comes to their rescue.
NetWare 5 can run DHCP server which can dynamically feed these addresses on a client when
it boots up. IP networks require a service which will help in resolving symbolic host
names to IP addresses. DNS server does this job for us.

NetWare’s DNS and DHCP servers are
integrated with each other. As and when a DHCP server allocates an address, DNS server
tables get automatically updated (with A and PTR records). Thus, technically speaking, DNS
can be called a Dynamic DNS (DDNS). Furthermore, DNS and DHCP servers are tightly
integrated with NDS. The entire management of DNS and DHCP server is done through NDS.
This is one of the bundled NDS-enabled applications which come with NetWare 5. It displays
the power NDS is capable of providing to network administrators.

ORACLE 8 AND NETSCAPE FAST TRACK
SERVER:
Currently, the prime usage of a network server is running a database
engine and/or web server for an intranet. These two bundled packages aptly fulfill the
standard application server needs when one buys NetWare 5. Oracle is well integrated with
NDS. Administrators can use NDS to assign access rights to tables. Oracle is also
SMP-enabled to take advantage of multiprocessor kernel capability of NetWare.

Presently, Netscape Fast Track Server is
integrated with NDS in a limited way. NDS capability can be used only to decide who on the
net have access to which sites. Netscape server follows the same rules as defined by
NetWare Trustee Rights feature. As of now, Netscape on NetWare does not seem to have
multiprocessor support.

CLIENT SOFTWARE: Client 32
software now adds a bright red ‘N’ to the system tray of task bar. A click on this
provides a user with a menu of network capabilities. One can see the network status, map
network drives, capture network printers and send messages. All these features were also
there in earlier versions; however, they were scattered between Network Neighborhood,
Control Panel and Explorer. Apart from this, there are facilities like automatic client
update etc.

Setting NetWare 5 apart
Other than the classical
improvements in the base OS functionality, what sets NetWare 5 apart are some of the key
improvements in the areas of protocol handling, network management and directory services.

NetWare so far was providing IP services by
encapsulating IP in IPX packet, then transporting it on the net as IPX packet, and finally
de-encapsulating to get back the original IP packet. No more of this is now needed, as
NetWare has been rewritten to have native IP support. Existing applications which use IPX
directly will continue to run properly, either by running IPX in parallel or through IP
with IPX compatibility mode. If one is too fussy and wants to run only one protocol, i.e.
IP alone, and still desires to have IPX-based legacy applications run properly, it is IP
with compatibility mode which can play the necessary trick. NetWare is smart enough to
understand the situation and handle it accordingly.

To manage all aspects of network
management, one needs a technology which is scalable and permits distributed architecture.
NDS, which is inherently hierarchical in nature, and is object-oriented with features that
permit adding of new attributes to the objects, is an ideal tool to address this issue.
NDS now has a bundled application known as Z.E.N.works for this job.

Coming to NDS, any medium-to-large-sized
network requires a directory service which can act as a repository of resources and
objects on the network that have to be managed. NDS came with NetWare 4.X. Most users saw
it only as a tool to provide single log-on facility to access server resources on the
network. However, directory service is far more capable.

At present, the power provided by NDS to
write network applications is hardly being utilized by application developers. Part of the
problem was lack of an efficient protocol to access directory services. Now with LDAP
technology maturing fast, there is all likelihood that directory-based network
applications and services will see a growth in their capabilities.

The Pure IP way
Why go the pure IP way? Good
question. But a debatable one. Pure IP helps in reducing network management and
interoperability problems when it comes to integrating NetWare with other TCP/IP-based
services on the networks. For example, integrating with Unix or NT or internet. If the
client desktops are already configured with TCP/IP protocol software to access
TCP/IP-based services, say a database service running on Unix or NT, then the networking
software on these desktops needs to be only marginally augmented to deploy NetWare
services. If one opts for IPX to access services offered by NetWare server, one has to
manage two protocol stacks on client PCs.

It can be debated whether it is a wise
choice to provide bread-and-butter services like file and print to Wintel clients through
TCP/IP technology. For those who are on the other side of the debate, that is, who prefer
to opt for IPX for this purpose, NetWare 5 continues to support IPX for providing these
services. However, an interesting fact is that NetWare not only supports such a choice but
it also has in-built technology to seamlessly integrate IPX and IP segments. End-user
desktops don’t have to know what protocol choices have been made for different servers and
segments. As a corollary of this feature, one can say that NetWare 5 provides ‘migrate at
your leisure’ choice to satisfy any user’s quest in adopting a pure IP technology. What
more can one ask for to embrace legacy environments and to design smooth at-your-pace
upgrade implementation strategy? And especially with the whole world moving to
internet/intranet standards, which thrive on TCP/IP technology, this is a welcome step.

File and print services, for which NetWare
is so far regarded as a king, will also come to us through TCP/IP technology. NT
networking is still to adopt this step. It uses NetBIOS encapsulation over IP to provide
file and print services.

Many people are of the view that it is much
better to run one single transport protocol on a given network. This argument is forwarded
on the basis of cost for running multiple protocols vis-a-vis the benefits derived. If you
run multiple protocols, then you incur the cost for managing multiple protocol stacks on
clients and servers. If the network deploys routers, then there is additional cost of
router software to support additional protocols.

Running TCP/IP protocol on a network is
almost mandatory these days. Otherwise, one may have to forgo some internet/intranet
services (although it is possible to use gateway technologies like IPX/IP gateway).
Therefore, if NOS demands some other protocol than TCP/IP to provide its basic services,
then one has to necessarily run this protocol as an additional protocol. This was the case
with NetWare for a long time. It provided its file and print services through IPX
protocol.

However, if the second protocol has almost
no management cost, which is the case with IPX (except for possible router software if
needed to cross WAN links), then where is the problem in running two protocols
simultaneously? In fact, some segments can run just IPX and no IP. Managing and
administrating IP is far more expensive than IPX. Therefore there is no harm if one
judiciously sticks to IPX on certain segments which require only file and print services.
However, trend toward internet/intranet and other TCP/IP-based services on LANs is
dictating IP on almost every node.

This is where Novell introduced NetWare/IP.
It was actually IPX encapsulated in IP. With NetWare/IP, node can be made to think that it
is using only IP. However, Novell didn’t package NetWare/IP correctly, although its the
same as Microsoft’s NetBIOS-over-IP encapsulation. There is no real performance difference
between encapsulating IPX in IP, or for that matter, NetBios in IP. However, Microsoft did
a good job of hiding the whole encapsulation scenario behind the point-and-click network
configuration tool. Users sometimes tend to think that Microsoft is using native TCP/IP
for file and print services until their WINS server dies and everyone on the network
segment has to shut off their PCs and reboot to be able to see any servers.

Well, now NetWare can be considered one
step ahead of Microsoft with its introduction of pure TCP/IP for file and print services.
However, those users who are used to the comfort of IPX will suddenly find themselves busy
in understanding DHCP and DNS servers. That is a necessary step, any way, if one has to
adopt internet/intranet technology with its full potential. Pure IP is expected to make
Novell more interoperable with the rest of the world.

Zero effort network
The term network management is typically associated with managing hubs, switches,
routers, WAN links, other network devices and cabling infrastructure. However, in reality,
the most expensive aspects of network management constituting more than 75% of the cost
are:
Managing user accounts and their access rights
Managing resources and access rights to these
resources for example, volumes/shares or printers
Managing networking software, application software,
software for value-added services like email/groupware and office automation packages on
end-user PCs. People engaged in managing medium-to-large-size networks will accept this
fact without any debate. That is why there is a hue-and-cry about TCO and that is why
there are initiatives like zero administration networks.

Z.E.N.works allows taking hardware
inventories for the PCs on the network, defining what applications an individual user can
access, remotely creating desktop icons on user’s PC (NAL), uniform desktop no matter
which PC a user logs in from, application distribution, remote installation and management
of files and registry entries for PC-based applications.

Z.E.N.works’ tight integration with NDS,
coupled with extensibility feature of NDS, can lead to an innovative set of applications.
Take the case of management of PC maintenance agencies. Normally one provides a list of
PCs with their configurations to agencies to bid for price. This list can be easily
produced using Z.E.N.works. After deciding which agency will maintain which PC, this
information can be associated with PC objects created by NDS/Z.E.N.works. The user can now
directly know whom to call in case of a hardware problem. Extending the set of attributes
of PC object to include purchase dates and warranty periods, an NDS-based application can
be written (with LDAP protocol) to intimate the user in advance what will be due for
maintenance and when. Thus there is a great scope to develop innovative applications once
PCs get into NDS as objects.

NetWare 5 has taken a major step toward
this direction. Z.E.N.works is the product targeted precisely to lower the desktop
management cost for any medium-to-large-size network. IntelliMirror is Microsoft’s answer
to Z.E.N.works and is expected to be launched alongwith NT 5. Reports on NT 5 beta 2 tests
indicate that IntelliMirror is a capable application but lags behind Z.E.N.works in its
capability to manage legacy systems, since IntelliMirror will work only with Windows NT
5.0 Workstation clients.

Providing GUI interface to manage
application and other desktop software does not help much to lower network management
costs. Every software has two interfaces: conceptual interface and syntactic interface.
GUI addresses problems associated with conventional syntactic interfaces. Understanding of
conceptual interface is far more important. If that would have not been the case, why
would so many internet users get confused in setting up TCP/IP stack using Windows 95 GUI?
Basic conceptual understanding of IP address and its role, and the role of DNS while
running a browser, is more important than knowing which tab to click to set what.
Understanding conceptual interface for the desktop means things like understanding how the
file system provides hierarchical directory structure. If the end-users start
understanding such conceptual interfaces for using the technology, then one would not have
to spend hours in retrieving their data files which get lost in program directories!
Knowing what needs to be done is more important than knowing how to do it. Conceptual
interface for an application deals with developing an understanding of what needs to be
done whereas GUI or syntactic interface deals with how to actually do it.

GUI on server console to manage the server
can sometimes become a nuisance. It does not let us automate system administration like
what Unix scripts allow us to do. However, those who over-value GUI for server management
will be happy to note that NetWare 5 provides ConsoleOne, a Java-based GUI to manage the
server. Since it is Java-based, the response of ConsoleOne provided in the beta copy is
far from what is desirable.

One of the ways to reduce desktop
management costs is to go for diskless nodes. It is the contents on the hard disk of the
desktops which is most difficult to manage. Therefore, the best strategy is to get rid of
this hard disk itself. Novell 3.12 had an excellent support for diskless node networks in
the good old era of DOS. With Win95 ushering in, having a diskless node network has become
almost impossible. WinFrame from Citrix and Windows terminal server from Microsoft are
good alternatives to explore. However, both technologies have one weakness compared to the
diskless nodes: they use the brain and memory of server and let the desktop power go
unutilized. Distributing computing is considered to be a great advantage of networking and
Intel had done a good job to support this paradigm.

Furthermore, the applications running on a
server, in case of Winframe or Windows terminal server, are yet to mature to re-entrant
form as provided by the applications on Unix servers. Most of these applications are
expected to be office applications and it favors vendors not to make them sharable. (That
is the only way to generate volumes, make money and then use this money to add further
fuel to the IT hype created in the end-user segment!)

Novell has no technology at the moment to
solve this problem except for integrating management of applications delivered through
WinFrame technology of Citrix.

Enhanced NDS
NDS enhancements in NetWare 5 include more granular control. For example,
consider the case of an administrator who needs to assign the task of updating email
addresses of users to one of his network assistants. So far, there was no way by which the
chief administrator could give rights to the assistant just to change email addresses.
Now, with the new NDS one can create an address administrator which can change and update
email addresses for every user on the network without having the privilege of looking into
user home directories. Catalog feature of NDS permits a user to log into the network
without having to specify the NDS context.

What are the alternatives to NDS?
Networking with Unix servers provides network information system (NIS) technology which
allows one to manage users’ accounts from a single server. In the NIS architecture, there
is one NIS master server and a few NIS slave servers. Any NIS server can authenticate a
user on the network. NIS provides network-wide single login facility.

PCs can be NIS clients and so can be other
Unix systems. NIS also allows floating tables on the network and writing applications to
access these tables through libraries using RPC calls. Good technology to manage user
accounts, host names and other information for managing multiple Unix server environment.
NIS was introduced by Sun. It had some inherent security problems and suffers from flat
file structure. Therefore its scalabilty is a problem. NIS also attempts to integrate name
resolution services. However, that is a bit tricky.

This was all in the Unix era. Then came in
PC LANs and PC LAN servers like NetWare and now NT. NetWare addressed the issue of
network-wide single login through its NDS technology introduce with NetWare 4. Since then,
NDS has matured. It is now being regarded as the jewel in the crown of NetWare technology.

Active Directory Services (ADS) is the
reply from Microsoft for its NT environment. However, it is expected to be released only
with NT 5. Industry reports and technical literature clearly indicates that NDS is far
ahead of ADS in its capability and features. With ADS more than a year away-and with
growing awareness and demand for enterprise directory products-Novell stands to make
significant progress in that market. Some analysts say that Novell doesn’t have a
technical challenge on its hands, but simply a marketing challenge.

Novell has plans to make NDS available on
other platforms as well, for example, Solaris, AIX and NT. This will let mixed NetWare and
Unix environments support single login and reduce administration costs. NDS/NetWare users
will be pre-authenticated for Oracle database access. NDS-defined groups can be configured
to access specific Oracle databases.

Management of the enterprise-wide network
using NDS will allow one-seat administration to become a reality on the heterogeneous
networks of the future. Multi-platform support, high degree of maturity and the
NDS-enabled application trend is likely to make NDS almost unbeatable.

The perspective on NetWare 5
File and print is best done by NetWare-there is no competition. NT, at the
moment, is a good choice for low-end application server for non-mission-critical
applications. An NT server for each application should be a proper design, given the
current level of robustness and scalability of NT. Unix is good choice at the moment for
mission-critical large applications.

With NDS becoming the prime technology for
directory services, providing the capability to lower network management costs and with
the growth in NDS-enabled applications, medium-to-large networks stand to gain by the
presence of NDS server box. Some of us may ask, “Is it worth developing the skill set
in so many diverse technologies?” Corporate users already have Unix skill set.
NetWare servers have the reputation of configure-and-forget. Skill set for managing NT is
steadily growing. The fundamental objective of networking technology is to marry diverse
technologies and to reap the benefits which diversity offers. Therefore, those network
managers who are afraid of handling diverse technologies better remain as managers of
host-centric environments.

Intelligent managers will soon realize that
proper deployment of a network solution should not be tied to a single account payee
check. It is always to one’s benefit to make technology providers compete with each other.

How NetWare 5 was
tested

The installation of
NetWare 5 was smooth. To what extent can the GUI interface help in making strategic
configuration choices, like whether to format a volume for NSS file system or for old
NetWare type file system, while installing a network operating system, is certainly a
debatable proposition. However, those who think GUI is a must everywhere will be happy to
note that after certain steps are over and Java kernel becomes operational, installation
turns itself into a GUI interface to take you through the remaining steps.

NetWare 5 Beta 3 Refresh (Build 40/609)
dated June 9, 1998 was used, with server hardware (non-branded) of the following
configuration:

Pentium II 266 MHz, Intel N440BX
motherboard, 128MB RAM, 4GB ultra DMA HDD, 32x CD ROM drive, 1×3.5 FDD, 2 serial, 1
parallel, 1 PS/2 ports, integrated Intel E100+ PCI Ethernet adaptor, integrated PCI VGA
card with 2MB RAM.

Server hardware should now have at least
64MB RAM, although Novell recommends minimum of 48MB. Given the fact that today’s desktops
require 32MB RAM to run Microsoft Office products at an acceptable speed, demanding a
minimum of 64MB RAM is not too much to ask for. NetWare 5 CD comes with bootable DR-DOS,
eliminating the need of having a separate DOS copy to get started with installation of
server software.

Caldera’s DR-DOS was loaded from the beta 3
CD and Install program started. Installation detected motherboard’s two processor slots
and automatically loaded multi-processor support. It detected IDE and SCSI support on the
motherboard and loaded the necessary device drivers for Symbios SCSI. It created SYS
partition of the size specified (with old NetWare file system type-SYS volume must be of
classical NetWare file system type) and loaded the basic minimum files required.
Thereafter, it started the GUI interface for the rest of the installation.

The entire process of making various
choices and completing installation of NetWare 5 took around 45 minutes.

Then Oracle 8 was installed, taking another
45 minutes. Netscape Fast Track Server was also loaded which did not take much time. Both
the add-on products were installed without any problems.

Then came installation of the client
software. On one node a pure IP client was installed (with IP address and other
information provided manually, no DHCP at the moment.) On another node an IPX client was
installed (no IP here).

It was planned to benchmark the effect on
file service response when one moves from IPX technology to IP technology. Benchmarking
file service response was considered important because of two reasons. First, Novell is
considered unbeatable when it comes to file services. It was conjectured that NCP and IPX
protocols are key to this unbeatable response. The second reason is elaborated below:

For many years, we were on a network which
had deployed NFS (Unix-based file-sharing protocol) to provide file services to PCs
through industry-grade Unix servers (and still continues to be deployed on a selective
basis-to let users update their home pages residing on Unix accounts using DOS/Windows as
front end). When this network started using IPX-based file services through NetWare 3.12
installed on 386- and/or 486-based plain vanilla PCs with 16MB RAM, file service response
dramatically improved. This clearly suggested that IP/UDP-based file services through Unix
servers with NFS protocol is definitely much slower than IPX/PEP-based file services
through NCP protocol of NetWare. It was desirable to check out what happens when NetWare
moves from its core IPX/NCP technology to IP/NCP technology to provide file services.

The results were very promising. Copying an
8MB file from NetWare 5 server to the local hard disk took 10 seconds for an IPX client
whereas it took 12 seconds for an IP client. That is only marginal degradation. Whereas,
the same activity took more than 25 seconds for a PC loaded with IP and NFS stack and
deriving file services from Sparc Server 20 with Solaris 2.4 of Sun Microsystems.

This led to the conclusion that those who
want to have file services through IP technology of NetWare 5 will witness only a marginal
difference in performance. Thereafter the performance of Oracle and Netscape Fast Track
server was tested. The Oracle performance was satisfactory and was as good as what we get
from an Oracle server on a comparable NT box. However, it must be noted that no formal
benchmarks were conducted for database performance. Oracle is well integrated with NDS,
which provided the facility to grant selective rights to users for accessing Oracle
tables. Performance of the Netscape server was superb.

Then DNS and DHCP were installed. For this
purpose, the schema on Novell server (DNIPINST) was extended and then installing and
configuring DNS and DHCP was completed on a node. It is expected that the need of doing
DNIPINST on server may not exist in the final shipping copy of NetWare 5.

It may be noted that the configuration and
management of DNS and DHCP servers is fully integrated with NDS. We had to run install
utility from sys:public\dnsdhcp directory to copy necessary Java console files and
snap-ins for the new NWADMIN32 utility running on the client. We realized that NetWare now
has new NWADMIN utility which is truly 32-bit.

Although the task of configuring DNS and
DHCP servers was far simpler than on a typical Unix server, it was partly tricky. Novell
is well-advised to provide its users with a 1-2 page printed handout (no asking to look
into manuals on CDs!) on how to get started on these activities. It will do a lot of good
to its clients and system administrators engaged in installing and managing NetWare 5
servers.

Then the veracity of NetWare 5 being a Java
Virtual Machine was checked. HotJava browser version 1.1.4 was downloaded from the
internet. Documentation indicated that it runs on JDK or JRE (Java Runtime Envrionment)
version 1.1.6 or later. It was loaded on NetWare 5 server. It came as a pleasant surprise
that, in a matter of a few seconds, one could start surfing on the net through this
HotJava browser running on NetWare 5 server console. There were absolutely no hiccups.

The server was run uninterrupted for seven
days. It never crashed. It is happy to note that NetWare 5 is in line with Novell’s
tradition of not being too finicky about server hardware. For the user, NetWare once again
proves its ability to embrace MNC and country-made servers with equal grace.

NT’s forte is that it is far easier for
developer community to write applications for. Therefore, NT has more applications.
However, with NetWare tuning into Java machine, Novell has opened up doors to attract
application developers to the NetWare platform. Java has the magic of
write-once-run-anywhere capability. Industry reports indicate that Novell has set aside
large funds to encourage application developers to adopt the NetWare platform for writing
Java-based, NDS-based and internet technology-based applications. Base technologies
required for developing such applications constitute the core of new features introduced
with NetWare 5. After a long time, marketing strategy of Novell seems to go hand-in-hand
with the newly-launched technology!

Novell’s biggest problem thus far had been
the right marketing strategy. The company is technically better for certain services but
Microsoft markets its products better.

NT appears to be a good solution for small
networks. When the user needs to combine file and print services with application services
and desires to have only one box, NT is a good solution. However, NT’s application
services are strictly through the client server model. But one wonders as to how many
small organizations moved to client server business applications. Not even all large
organizations have fully shifted their applications to the client server model.

Another situation where NT may fit the bill
is when we have many clusters of small workgroups and enterprise-wide application follows
distributed architecture.

It has been observed that many small
organizations suffer from the confusion of what an application server means. Many of them
load their EXE and data files on the server, use file services offered by the server to
access and to run the application. Technically speaking, the server is being used here
only to provide file services. Vendors have been able to convince the users that they need
application servers for this purpose.

NT 5 is unlikely to be released before the
middle of next year. By then IT managers will get too busy with Y2K problems. Thus, for
all practical purposes, NT 5 is unlikely to be adopted on a large scale before 2000.
Novell, thus, has a unique opportunity to regain some of its lost corporate mindshare. A
lot will depend on how well the company motivates application developers to adopt NetWare
5. It will also depend on what direction Java technology takes.

Novell needs to redesign its marketing
strategy (may be learn from Microsoft!). Products don’t always get sold on their technical
strengths. If they do, they will get sold only in those organizations where the technical
chief is also the final decision-maker. Novell must understand that products need to be
sold to the managers in the decision-making seats.

For buyers, this is the most appropriate
time to invest into the new OS. Most of the older OSs are not Y2K-compliant. Some vendors
have offered necessary patches and some will provide in due course of time. However, these
are patches and their reliability can’t be as good as the reliability offered by the OSs
which have been written ground-up in the recent past, when Y2K problem became a known
multibillion-dollar problem. Netware 5 is one such OS and therefore worth the evaluation.

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