Review: Novell NetWare 6, part 2

Away from the new ‘i’ features, perhaps the most significant change in NetWare 6 is the introduction of the Native File Access Pack (NFAP) that allows clients to use the features of a NetWare server without the need for client software. This is a major step forward for Novell though some products, most notably ZENworks, still require a Novell client. With NFAP loaded on the server, clients from Windows, Unix/Linux and Mac workstations can access a NetWare server as if it were a server on their native platform with no additional software. Windows 95/98 users will still need the Microsoft client for networks. The NFAP functionality appears to work very well, and is certainly a more 21st century approach to network serving than having to use client software.

In addition to NFAP, another new feature, Web Access, provides clients the ability to access server resources through a browser interface. Powered by Java applets called ‘gadgets’, the Web browser access truly delivers platform independent access to the NetWare server.

While we are on the subject of Web-related features, NetWare now comes with two Web server applications; the traditional NetWare Enterprise Web server and a version of Apache. The Apache server provides for some features, such as iFolder, while others use the Netscape server. The upshot of this setup is that it means you have two web server products running on the server. Some sources appear to cite this as good thing, but I am unsure why it is better to have two web server products using system resources than one. Even so, on a test system the performance of both web server products was outstanding, and this on a installation which had received no tweaking whatsoever.

On a more grass roots administration level, there are also a number of changes. The Remote Manager feature (previously known as the NetWare Management Portal) provides secure browser based server management capabilities with some handy new additions. For the traditionalists among us, NetWare Administrator is still available as is ConsoleOne, though there are more server specific features available in Remote Manager than in either of these other administration utilities.

So what’s all of this new functionality going to cost you? Pricing for NetWare 6 starts at $199 per user for 5 users and drops to $184 at 25 users. As always, bulk licensing will bring this down further. For existing NetWare users, upgrades start at around the $100 per user mark. These upgrade prices extend to users of competitive products who choose to move to NetWare 6.

Overall, NetWare 6 is an impressive product. It provides all the functionality that an organization would want from a network server, as well as providing some very interesting additional features. In particular, the Internet ready add-ons, iFolder and iPrint, and Web Access will attract those organizations who have a highly mobile workforce and who are ready to make the leap toward a less conventional network environment.

That said, I also have some reservations. The features it has added certainly seem to be geared to larger organizations or those that have a highly mobile workforce rather than smaller businesses. Is Novell now conceding this market space to Microsoft? Size of the installation aside, the new features will be useful to some companies but equally not to others. In a few years time I can see NetWare 6 and its ‘connected’ features being in big demand, but right now, in a business environment where every cent is being watched, I just can’t think that too many people will be rushing for the added functionality. I hope I am proved wrong.

For more information on NetWare 6, visit Novell’s NetWare 6 product page.

Drew Bird (MCT, MCNI) is a freelance instructor and technical writer. He has been working in the IT industry for over 12 years and currently lives in Kelowna, BC., Canada.

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