Amid mergers and acquisitions and executive shifts, Novell Inc. is still finding time to crank out cutting-edge networking software. The Provo, Utah, company is set to include an Internet printing capability, known as Novell Internet Printing, in NetWare 6.0, the next version of its network operating system, due in the third quarter.
This week, at its annual BrainShare conference in Salt Lake City, Novell plans to announce the incorporation of disk pooling and storage technology in NetWare 6.0, said sources close to the company.
Last week, Novell surprised the computing industry by acquiring IT consulting and integration company Cambridge Technology Partners Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., for $266 million and announcing that CTP CEO Jack Messman will replace Novell CEO Eric Schmidt, who will continue as chairman. The deal creates uncertainty about where the companys flagship software, NetWare, and other technologies fit into the combined company, but for now, there is still considerable research and development going into them.
Jim Tanner, Novells director of NetWare Product Management, said NIP is based on the IPP (Internet Print Protocol) standard, which links network printers directly to the Internet and allows them to be used from a browser.
IPP technology, in effect, turns printers into Web servers. Instead of users transmitting documents via fax, e-mail or overnight mail delivery, IPP lets them send documents across the Internet directly to IPP-equipped printers, which can reproduce formatted replicas of documents, Tanner said. As a result, businesses can connect IPP-enabled printers to the Internet so traveling employees can send documents straight to the office.
Novells NIP technology takes this further, extending a companys print infrastructure to the Internet without the need to replace printers with IPP-enabled printers. NetWare customers running NDPS would be able to simply add IPP to the Novell Distributed Print Services server.
"About half of our customers have indicated they want Internet-type printing, but most of the current solutions require that IPP printers be deployed. Thats a very costly proposition for many of them, and we have now removed that obstacle," Tanner said.
In addition, customers want to track print jobs and manage queuing and printer locations. "Allowing end users to download the client and install the driver regardless of whether or not they have the NetWare client is very compelling," said Tanner. But this does not mean that Novell is any less committed to supporting and enhancing the client environment. NIP is just another option, and those customers who prefer traditional network-based client printing can continue with that, Tanner said.
While Novells rollout of the IPP client will be for Windows applications, the company will develop for other platforms as well, he said.
Novell consultant John Kretz, president of Enlightened Point Consulting Group LLC, in Phoenix, said he welcomed the print initiative.
"The whole idea of network printing as it stands at the moment is antiquated," Kretz said. "Its administratively heavy and needs to be more friendly. IPP technology is an enabling, low-level one that will enable companies like Novell to come up with new services for customers and clients."
Novell will demonstrate NIP on a large scale at BrainShare, allowing users with a wireless or hard connection to tie into a LAN. Attendees wanting to print presentations supplied on a CD will be able to go to the BrainShare URL, click on the printers and choose the one closest to them.
Non-NetWare customers wanting Novells IPP will have to install a NetWare server running NDPS at the back end but will not have to deploy the NetWare client to every desktop. "The solution comes in and is deployed. Nothing changes on the desktop. Users go to an inner Web or intranet, and a link simply shows up giving them printers," Tanner said. "Those [non-NetWare] customers would pay a per-user NetWare license charge for the file and print services provided on the network."
Many of Novells 90 million NetWare installed bases run NetWare 5.1 and NDPS. While these users might not want to upgrade to NetWare 6.0 immediately, they could find NIP compelling.
Kretz said Novell "had better make the upgrade to 6.0 extremely price-friendly. If they try and gauge the upgrade prices, theyre going to find a lot of 6.0 product on the shelf."
Other projects being demonstrated include disk pooling and storage technologies. With these technologies, rather than volumes being tied to disks, all disks in a server or storage subsystems will become part of a disk pool, sources said. A volume that is not tied to a single disk but to the entire network would sit on top of that.
When NetWare 6.0 is installed, each disk will be added to the pool and the volume re-created on the Network File System server. The benefits are that a volume will occupy only as much space as the files on it take up; as files are added to that volume, it will go to the disk pool and consume disk space as needed. The source said NetWare 6.0 users will be able to map a drive and redirect the file services across the Internet to a server, again moving away from dependency on the desktop client.
Novell customers have embraced this innovation, and Kretz said it will make NetWare 6.0 more compelling. "We were all really excited some 18 months ago when Novell briefed us on a rough technology around disk pooling and storage. It is a phenomenal capability, as the ability to re-enable or readjust dynamic data storage like this is just so amazing," he said.