NetWare 6.5: Delivering on Linux Promise
NetWare may have fallen from favor in the eyes of many, but bold moves are on the horizon for the network OS. The latest release offers previews of an ineluctably evolving, and ultimately Linux-focused, network services stack.
There’s no escaping the fact that NetWare’s market share is in steep decline. Provo, Utah-based Novell’s network operating system has fallen from dominating well over 50 percent of the market in 1996 to scraping by at about 11 percent in 2002, according to figures from analyst firm IDC.
Yet despite these stark figures, NetWare is far from dead. It's still widely respected by network administrators and remains in use by most Fortune 1000 customers at least somewhere in the organization. This summer sees the launch of NetWare 6.5, a release which promises some significant enhancements to 6.0.
Coupled with this is an increasing buzz of interest surrounding NetWare due to Novell’s increased focus on Linux. Many, in fact, are touting version 6.5 as a step on the path to integration with Linux, with full support for Linux coming in version 7.0, which is scheduled for release late next year.
So how significant is the release of NetWare 6.5, and what does it really offer? In terms of halting NetWare’s decline, the answer is almost certainly nothing — nor does Novell expect it to. But before examining the reasons for this, let’s take a look at what’s new in version 6.5.
Virtual Office and iManager 2.0
NetWare 6.5’s virtual office portal is designed to make it easier for end users to serve themselves. “In the past, NetWare has been viewed as a back-end technology, but not one which touches the end user,” says Alan Hall, solution marketing manager for NetWare.
Virtual office gives users access to iFolder, the automatically synchronizing networked folder, and iPrint, for access to printing resources anywhere, and brings collaboration tools, email, team collaboration, and self-service password control within easy, convenient reach.
The improved iManager service enables network admins to monitor and manage the entire network from any browser at any location. Previously, some components could only be managed if attached to the actual server in question, but now all parts of the network can be managed from any browser.
Many of the virtual office portal services were present in NetWare 6.0, but John Enck, vice president of server and directory strategies at Gartner, sees the latest release as enabling these services to come of age. “I see 6.5 as delivering the promise of 6.0,” he says. “The iFolder, iPrint, [and iManager] features were in 6.0, but frankly they were rough around the edges — these features will work well in 6.5.”
Mixed environments (i.e. environments with both Novell and Microsoft OSes in place) are also better catered for in 6.5 with the latest version of the Novell DirXML Starter Pack, which provides:
- User account synchronization between eDirectory, NT Domains, and Active Directory
- Password synchronization across these environments