Bay City Schools Roll with Netware: A Case Study - Page 2

 By Jacqueline Emigh
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In May and June of 1999, engineers from Dell and Novell pre-configured 20 Dell servers that has been factory-installed with NetWare 5.1, NDS 8, GroupWise, and Zen for Desktops.

In early July, the engineers arrived in Bay City, where they set up all 20 Dell boxes, along with two existing Novell servers, in less than a day and a half.

"Ordinarily, a process like this would have taken a few weeks. We could have gotten everything done even faster -- within only a few hours -- except that we ran into a couple of snags," Strycker says. For one thing, Dell and Novell uncovered a need to enhance the NDS merge function in NetWare 5.1.

"We had an existing NDS tree, and we wanted to merge it with a new one. At that time, NDS couldn't reconcile the objects properly from two separate trees, except in very small deployments. Also, the NDS merge function didn't include any recovery function in case the process failed. The destination would actually become corrupted," Mosier maintains.

To correct this problem, Cary Andrews, an NDS programmer from Novell, tweaked NDS merge to allow for object reconciliation in large-scale deployments. Andrews also added a function that lets network managers see the results of a merge before actually committing to the merge. Novell has incorporated code from these enhancements into NetWare 6, according to Mosier.

The other snare involved getting VPN connectivity between the fiber optic ATM WAN used in Bay City's high school and administration buildings and the cable TV network that connected K-5 schools to the Internet.

For VPN IPsec tunneling, the Alcatel layer 3 switches already installed on the fiber optic link required only relatively minor reconfiguration. "The cable modems in the K-5 schools, though, were only able to handle the MAC addresses of 500 devices. So, we swapped out the cable modems for Cisco 1720 routers," Mosier says.

The Bay City school system then used Zen for Desktops to push out application software to all of the system's PC workstations, including 1400 PCs then newly purchased from Dell.

Under its contract with Dell, Bay City is entitled to three bundled server software products at no extra charge. The school system opted NetWare, GroupWise, and Zen for Desktops. Bay City, though, also holds a single license for Novell's ManageWise, an application that would add remote monitoring to the network's administration features.

So far, however, the school system hasn't felt a need for remote monitoring. If users experience difficulties, they call in for help, and technicians are dispatched to check out server and network status.

"Those NetWare servers are like rocks," according to Strycker. In calculating network statistics, Strycker has clocked uptime at 99.13 percent. "That's almost unbelievable, and I don't think we could ever have achieved it without NetWare," he says.

Jacqueline Emigh (pronounced "Amy") is a 12-year veteran of computer journalism. She is currently freelancing for several leading technology and business publications. She was previously a senior editor for Sm@rt Partner Magazine, and before that, a bureau chief for Newsbytes News Network.

» See All Articles by Columnist Jacqueline Emigh

This article was originally published on Feb 28, 2002
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