Novells OES Eases Path to Linux

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2005-04-18

Novells OES Eases Path to Linux

NetWare shops seeking wider support for hardware and software will find Novell Inc.s Open Enterprise Server 1.0 a fairly pain-free migration route to the greener pastures of Linux.

Click here to read the full review of Open Enterprise Server 1.0.


NetWare shops seeking wider support for hardware and software will find Novell Inc.s Open Enterprise Server 1.0 a fairly pain-free migration route to the greener pastures of Linux.

Last year, shortly after acquiring SuSE Linux AG and its enterprise-focused Linux distribution, Novell announced that its follow-on to NetWare 6.5 would ship as a set of network services that run atop the NetWare or the Linux kernel. OES 1.0, which began shipping last month, is the product of that effort.

eWEEK Labs tested OES 1.0 in its SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9- and NetWare 6.5-backed configurations, and we found that Novell has done a pretty good job of executing on its dual-platform strategy.

We configured directory, file and print, and collaboration services on both OES/NetWare and OES/Linux, and each configuration performed well—and, for the most part, interchangeably. We used the same Web-based tools to manage everything, and we could even cluster NetWare- and Linux-based installations for service failover.

Novell has developed for OES 1.0 a technology called Linux User Management that ties in eDirectory users to Linuxs native PAMs (Pluggable Authentication Modules) to work with Linux services such as sshd (Secure Shell daemon) and su (used to run a shell with substitute user and group IDs), which helps in managing a mixed NetWare and Linux server environment.

However, we had to jump through extra hoops initially while configuring services on our OES/Linux machine. For example, to enable users to employ Samba, we had to manually create a home directory for each user by logging in as that user from the command line—a step, according to Novells documentation, that couldnt be carried out with an SSH session or other remote method.

Whats more, the two flavors of OES dont always perform identically, particularly when using NSS (Novell Storage Services). On OES/ Linux, NSS lacks support for volume encryption, Novell Distributed File Services, user space restrictions and volume snapshots.

For more about whether now is the time to move from NetWare to Linux, click here.

Even if a shift to OES/Linux proves premature at your site, OES offers administrators an opportunity to dip their toes into the Linux way of doing things without leaving the NetWare kernel. OES/NetWare includes support for the GNU BASH (Bourne-Again Shell) and for the Vim (Vi Improved) command-line text editor, both of which are Linux standards and which facilitate script-based management across both OES platforms.

Along similar lines, OES includes support for Red Hat Inc.s RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) software management system, which is the same facility that SuSE Linux uses for updates and which underlies Novells Red Carpet system update product.

We recommend that NetWare shops at least bring OES into their labs for a run-through—OES evaluation disks are available for free download at, and Novell has put together a pair of well-written lab guides for both OES versions that we found helpful during our evaluation.

For companies that arent already running NetWare, the OES upgrade story is less compelling, particularly at sites that are wed to competing directory products, such as Microsoft Corp.s Windows Server 2003 and Active Directory.

However, OES does ship with support for migration from or synchronization with Active Directory, and OES could be a good fit for sites running the now-unsupported Windows NT. Administrators can bring OES servers into their NT domain structure right away without disrupting services, thereby getting their security house in order before planning out a directory implementation.

Next page: Prices and platforms.

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Although its defined in part by its relationship with the freely available Linux kernel, OES isnt a low-cost option—with 100 client licenses, its priced at $18,400, although upgrade or competitive upgrade prices are about half that amount.

By comparison, based on retail pricing estimates from Microsofts Web site, Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition and 105 client access licenses cost $7,195—a bit less than OES, even with competitive-upgrade pricing.

SuSE Enterprise Linux 9 costs either $350 or $900 per system per year (for machines with a maximum of two CPUs or as many as 16 CPUs, respectively) and doesnt require client licenses. Pricing is similar for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.

Of course, neither RHEL nor SLES offers the same breadth of network services as OES—nor does Windows. In addition, each license to run OES includes permission to install OES/Linux or OES/NetWare or a combination of the two in a two-node cluster.

Novells eDirectory, which anchors OES and is much more polished than most of its LDAP directory rivals—particularly the OpenLDAP directory that ships with SuSE and other Linux distros—is available for stand-alone purchase at $2 per user license.

Novell OES 1.0, in both NetWare- and Linux-based configurations, runs on x86 hardware only. This is somewhat of a limitation, considering that SLES 9 runs on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s x86-64 and IBMs PowerPC and mainframe architectures. We hope to see Novell expand the roster of architectures that OES supports to make the most of its Linux platform option.

In addition to performing a clean install of OES 1.0, we could upgrade an existing NetWare or SLES 9 machine to OES—this process also upgrades SLES to Support Pack 1 or NetWare 6.5 to Support Pack 3 (if those upgrades havent already been made).

OES/NetWare supports upgrades from NetWare versions dating back to 5.1 Support Pack 7, but its not possible to upgrade a NetWare machine directly to OES/ Linux. However, the OES documentation lays out procedures for migrating or consolidating data from NetWare releases from Version 4.11 onward.

One of the new features that caught our eye is OES support for server management using OpenWBEM (Web Based Enterprise Management), which helps unify management of NetWare- and SLES-backed OES servers, as well as regular NetWare 6.5 and SLES machines.

Using iManager 2.5, the Web-based management client that ships with OES, we could fetch status information, such as CPU and memory state, on our servers. However, this works completely only with NetWare and SLES. When we added an RHEL 4 server (which doesnt include a WBEM client) to our watch list, the only information we could get was whether the system was running.

We could download the WBEM client code from, however, and could compile it to provide for full WBEM functionality with our RHEL 4 machine.

In addition, we had the option of setting up Windows client machines to consume OES services using the standard Novell client, which enabled us to log on to the directory and access file shares, printers and other resources.

Companies running OES along with Linux or Mac OS X on the desktop can provide access to file shares through the NFS (Network File System) or CIFS (Common Internet File System) protocols, and all three client platforms can access files over a Web interface using iFolder.

According to Novell officials, the company plans to release a Linux version of the Novell client in the late-summer time frame. At sites that are already using the Novell client on Windows, this will help ease desktop migrations to Linux.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

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Evaluation Shortlist

Apple Computer Inc.s Mac OS X Server Offers a slick graphical interface and good access to most open-source software (

Debian/Fedora These all-free operating system alternatives enjoy good community support and work well when running completely open-source software stacks

Windows Server 2003 Offers the easiest-to-use administration tools and very wide support for both proprietary and open-source software (

Novells SuSE Enterprise Linux Server 9 and Red Hats Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 These distros offer fewer frills than OES but cost less because of their lack of client access licenses ( and, respectively)

Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris 10 Boasts good application support, compelling administration features and a low cost (

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at

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