Novell Bets on Net Services

New NetWare could pull in customers.

Novell Inc. is wagering that it can hang onto its much-diminished installed base while attracting new users by offering enterprises a set of network services thats broad and well-integrated and keeps customer options open by embracing open-source components.

The short-term product of this strategy is NetWare 6.5, which Novell introduced last month in a public beta version. The final version is slated to ship this summer.

Along with improvements to file, print and directory services, NetWare 6.5 will ship with a set of key open-source software components, including the MySQL database, Apache Web server, Tomcat application server, and support for the PHP and Perl languages. Pricing hasnt been announced.

Longer term, Novell has announced that starting with NetWare 7, it will be delivering its software as a set of services that may be run atop either the NetWare or Linux kernel. Novells current support for Linux includes its eDirectory product and Extend Application Server.

This move should enable Novell to persuade more companies to join the NetWare fold.

Novells Web-based administration application, iManager 2.0, can now configure eDirectory, Domain Name System, FTP and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) servers, iPrint, iSCSI, and Novell product metering. iManager can be accessed through a number of browser platforms, including those of handheld computers.

NetWare 6.5 includes Novells Nterprise Branch Office software, which provides satellite offices with file and print services, as well as backup support, across a secured connection back to the central office.

NetWare 6.5 also boasts improved clustering functions, including boosted fault tolerance for Web applications through support for the jBroker Message Queue.

In addition, Novell has added Snapshot backup support at the disk block level, which provides administrators with more flexibility when backing up data.

When eWEEK Labs tested NetWare 6s Common Internet File System support, we found it slower than what we experienced with the Novell client. When the gold code for NetWare 6.5 ships, well test this performance again to see just what speed gains Novell has been able to deliver.

The latest version of iFolder, 2.1, included with NetWare 6.5, will enable users to connect any local folder to iFolder: Previously, only their My Documents folder could be so connected. As with iManager, users will also be able to access iFolder files via a handheld computers Web browser.

NetWare 6.5 users also stand to benefit from the inclusion of Novells Virtual Office and Virtual Teams collaboration features (see screen).

The features provide for instant messaging, data sharing and team resource management in a Web-based interface, similar to what Microsoft provides in Windows Server 2003s Windows Team Services.

Novell now ships its Extend Application Server (formerly SilverStream Extend) with NetWare 6.5, the authoring tools of which have impressed us in previous tests.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at