Novell Moving Away from Proprietary Past

Novell Inc. announced a new release of its Novell ZENworks for Desktops 4.0 that no longer requires a Novell client.

Novell Inc. at Brainshare Europe in Barcelona on Monday took another step away from its proprietary roots as it announced a new release of its Novell ZENworks for Desktops 4.0 that no longer requires a Novell client.

The latest release, which formally entered beta testing, simplifies remote software distribution to mobile users by eliminating the requirement to have a Novell client installed on a target laptop.

In addition to freeing administrators from having to install the Novell client before being able to distribute software or perform other management tasks, the task can now operate in a more streamlined manner for remote users connected over the Internet.

"The traditional client runs over NCP (NetWare Core Protocol), which could run over the Internet, but it was clunky," said Matthew Krieger, associate director of global network architecture services at The Readers Digest Association Inc., in Pleasantville, N.Y. "The new client they run is HTTP. Its now basically built with Web standards, so it extends to people outside the corporate firewall."

That can be especially useful for managing desktops with initial software configuration that isnt managed by central administrators, and for bringing other acquired environments under the ZENworks management umbrella, Krieger said.

"If we acquire a company, it may be theyre all Windows NT or Windows 2000 on the desktop. If I want to make them part of the ZENworks application delivery infrastructure, but I dont want to do monster client installs on all their desktops, I can give them the agent and get them access to the applications over HTTP without creating as much infrastructure to support that traditional NetWare client," he said.

The latest release also adds support for the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE), which allows a managed desktop to be booted and managed before its operating system starts. That support can reduce the cost and simplify the process of rolling out Windows XP or another new operating system, compared to manual sneakernet methods of OS updates.

Krieger also applauded ZENworks enhanced support for mobile users connected over slower-speed dial-up connections. The new release adds checkpoint restart functions, allowing a software update to resume where it left off in the event of a dropped connection. Novell enhanced the ZENworks agent so that it can adapt to varying connection speeds.

Novell officials would not say when the new release will be generally available, and they are not yet announcing pricing for it.

Also at BrainShare, Novell version 3.1 of its NetMail e-mail server. In this version, formerly known as Novell Internet Messaging Server, platform support has been extended to Windows NT/2000. This version also supports synchronization of e-mail, address book and calendar data from any network workstation to Palm OS and Pocket PC devices.

NetMail is targeted to large organizations that do not require a full-fledged groupware suite, just e-mail and shared calendaring and scheduling. Novell officials said it can handle up to millions of e-mail boxes, but conceded that the new Windows NT/2000 version does not scale as high as its Solaris, Linux or NetWare versions, though no benchmark has been set yet. Pricing for NetMail 3.1 is $15 per user, up considerably from the $9 per user of 3.0.

The company changed the product name from Novell Internet Messaging Server to avoid confusion with its forthcoming instant messaging application. That product, code-named Quasar, is expected to be released before the end of this year. It will be built on the companys eDirectory technology, which company officials said would make it a secure, manageable solution, easily integrated with existing corporate directories. Company officials said Novell hasnt decided yet whether the product will be sold separately or bundled with other Novell messaging products.