When Mike Giovaninni moves his company to a next-generation operating system later this year, he wont be migrating to the much-ballyhooed Windows Server 2003. Hell be moving to NetWare 6.5.
Eight months into testing a beta of Novell Inc.s operating system, Giovaninni, the IS manager at aerospace manufacturer Berkshire Industries Inc., of Westfield, Mass., said hes happy with its speed and functionality.
"One of the best features about the new operating system is that its Novell," Giovaninni said. "Its stable, and the speed is fantastic. I like to make things break, and I just cant break this one."
Novell could certainly use more customers like Berkshire Industries. Sales of NetWare have slipped during the last few years, and now Novell is hoping that the next release of its flagship operating system will halt the exodus of IT managers to Linux and Windows.
Experts say the next-generation operating system, which includes a browser-based portal, directory integration and an application server for Web services, is a step in the right direction.
However, although NetWare 6.5 includes powerful technology, Novell faces sales and marketing challenges, according to Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst for research company International Data Corp., in Orlando, Fla. "IT decision makers who authorize software buying often dont know about the product and its strengths," Kusnetzky told eWEEK earlier this year (see www.eWEEK.com/links).
NetWare 6.5 has been in beta trials since last fall and was released as a public beta at Novells BrainShare conference last month. It is expected to ship at midyear. Currently, there are 90 million licensed users of NetWare and 4 million installed servers, according to Novell officials.
In what may be music to Novell executives ears, Giovaninni said the beta of NetWare 6.5, code-named Nakoma, is exactly what he expects from the vendor: a stable and robust file and print server with new capabilities that, among other things, will enable him to take advantage of open-source applications.
Giovaninni has been beta testing the operating system since August, running applications including Microsoft Corp.s Visual FoxPro on a Dell Computer Corp. PowerEdge 2300 server and a Dell Precision Workstation 420. Despite the older hardware, Giovaninni said he has seen no degradation in performance thus far.
Giovaninni is currently running mission-critical applications, including Berkshires home-grown ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, on NetWare 6.0 Service Pack 2. Because the ERP system derives a great deal of its performance from Novells file system, he has focused most of his testing on the robustness of NetWare 6.5.
Giovaninni has been running his beta systems over multiple network segments to test performance and latency. Novell has improved on native file access in NetWare 6.5, he said, and because the company is a heavy user of Novell Directory Services, this comes in handy when configuring Novells ZENworks for desktop platform management.
Novells plans to include open-source support are what Giovaninni is most excited about in NetWare 6.5. "Im pretty anxious to put the open-source side of things to the test," he said. "Having that open-source support makes NetWare that much more attractive as an application platform."
NetWare 6.5s inclusion of open source, as well as its Web portal, will allow Giovaninni to employ PHP, Perl and MySQL to build a portal giving customers access to critical information, such as where their product is in the production cycle. Giovaninni estimated the deployment of this portal will lower the number of customer service phone calls dramatically, thus reducing costs.
But as happy as he is with NetWare 6.5 so far, Giovaninni said Berkshire will not be an immediate adopter of the operating system when it is released later this year.
Berkshires reliance on its ERP data means Giovaninni will wait to ensure that all bugs have been fixed before he begins moving mission-critical applications onto the operating system. Giovaninni said he expects an upgrade three to six months after the operating system is released to manufacturing.
"I like to let other people take some punishment first because we have a serious reliance on our data and I cant afford to have something go wrong," Giovaninni said. "Its not a knock on Novell. I just want to err on the side of caution."
eWEEK Labs Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at email@example.com.