NetWare 6 Gets a Shot in the Arm

But Version 6 might be too little, too late

Netware 6 brings much-needed improvement to the Novell Inc. operating system—especially minimizing the need for fat client software—but not enough to warrant a major reinvestment.

eWeek Labs tested NetWare 6 Beta 3, which showed impressive improvements in file and print services. Novells Native File Access is perhaps the most important file service advance, allowing NetWare 6 servers to communicate directly with Windows, Unix and Macintosh clients. Using Native File Access, we could map network drives to our NetWare servers without installing Novells clunky, fat client software.

Novell hopes that new features such as iFolder and iPrint will help push the company to a position of relevance beyond the LAN and into the Internet-enabled work space.

iPrint—built on the Internet Engineering Task Forces Internet Printing Protocol—is a useful new print service that allows a client to initiate print jobs through a Web browser. Clients can use a browser to locate printers at their location, and iPrint automatically downloads and installs the print drivers required to complete the job. With the iFolder tool, we were able to download and upload files, as well as perform file synchronizations, via a Web browser.

Novell ups the ante over other operating systems in the groupware department by including the NetWare Web Access portal software. Similar to Microsoft Corp.s SharePoint server (sold separately from Windows 2000), NetWare Web Access provides a single point of access from which clients can check e-mail, look up addresses and grab files.

Novell Web Access, which works with GroupWise, cant be considered a full-fledged knowledge management system because it doesnt perform advanced document management tasks, such as revision management, or have collaboration tools, such as whiteboards. However, the application would be a solid foundation for third-party applications.

Management has always been a strong point for Novell, and NetWare 6s Web-based management utilities dont disappoint. Using the iManage Web interface (see screen), we could create and alter users without launching the NWADMIN utility NetWare administrators are so familiar with. The NetWare Remote Manager allowed us to perform basic server management tasks but also gave us the ability to remotely initiate console commands. Like all Novell products, NetWare 6 should easily plug in to existing NDS (Novell Directory Services) infrastructures.

Key to NetWares continued survival is its ability to scale. Novell promises support for 32 processors and clustering to 32 nodes in NetWare 6. (Two-node clustering is included out of the box.) eWeek Labs will test NetWare 6s performance when gold code is released. NetWare 6 is slated for release this fall; pricing hasnt been announced.