Not Just Another NOS

NetWare 6 includes impressive Web tools, file and print services-and a glimpse of Novell's game plan.

Netware 6 builds on Novell Inc.s file and print services strength and enhances it with innovative Web tools. The bigger story, however, will be whether NetWare 6, which began shipping last month, is the technology that marks the turning point in Novells transition from a market-share-losing network operating system vendor to a formidable customized solutions provider.

Through its acquisition of Cambridge Technology Partners Inc., the Novell of tomorrow should be able to create powerful, custom-tailored applications that leverage critical building blocks including NDS, NetWare file services and security services.

Although this wont be an easy transition by any means, the company has ably demonstrated through the years its ability to bring new technologies to the market, with NetWare establishing the LAN market and NDS bringing directories to IT organizations. NetWare 6 continues this tradition in several respects.

eWEEK Labs tests of the gold code of NetWare 6 showed that this new edition has enough interesting features to appeal to a wider market than just die-hard Novell shops, although it will likely keep the faithful happy as well.

NetWare 6s iFolder and iPrint features, which we covered at length in a previous beta review, bring impressive, useful data synchronization and the Internet Printing Protocol to the NetWare franchise. (For eWEEK Labs Aug. 27 review of NetWare 6 beta 3 code, go to,3658,s%253D701%2526a%253D13297,00.asp.)

A license for 25 users is priced at $4,600, and Novell offers big discounts for competitive upgrades. Although cut-rate prices and new Web features might not be enough to win over established Windows shops, simply not being Microsoft could be an advantage for enterprises with heterogeneous systems installed.

NetWare 6s WebAccess Java application, which ties to Novells portal services, provides loyal Novell followers with a powerful portal environment that allows their clients to get to key information sources such as file servers and e-mail—all from a single Web page.

WebAccess probably wont make any out-of-the-box knowledge management or portal vendors quake in their boots, but we believe Novell, by leveraging NetWare 6 technology and its freshly acquired army of consultants and developers, could emerge as a clear front-runner in the knowledge management space.

Speaking native tongues

Novells native file access protocols, which allow NetWare servers to communicate with Macintosh, Unix and Windows clients out of the box, are another key advancement. Using these protocols, administrators need not install Novells thick-client software to access file services—and this alone is enough for us to recommend upgrading older servers to NetWare 6 and is the capability thats most likely to bring NetWare 6 into more non-NetWare shops.

In testing, however, we found a few significant negatives to the Native File Access Protocols. In performance tests that pitted Novells new CIFS (Common Internet File System) implementation against a thick NetWare client running Novells standard file services, we found the more conventional configuration was much faster than the new CIFS protocol. The standard configuration delivered roughly 900M-bps throughput, whereas the CIFS configuration could muster only 200M-bps performance.

These precipitous throughput differences were probably caused by NetWare 6s client-side caching, which hasnt been tuned. We expect CIFS-enabled results to become much more comparable in the near future.

In addition, the authentication process for the CIFS and other native file access protocols requires a second password to access resources from workstations that dont have Novell client software installed. Setting up these passwords was relatively easy, but in a world where single sign-on is a major goal for most companies, the additional password can become an administrative hassle.

Management in NetWare 6 is much improved thanks to the addition of Web-based management tools such as iManage and NetWare Remote Manager.

Using the new Java-based iManage console, for example, we could perform basic user management tasks such as adding, deleting and editing users and groups on a browser, while NetWare Remote Manager allowed us to manage remote servers from a browser. These tools, which are on par with those in Windows, are a big improvement over older NetWare management utilities.

Although NetWare 6s management tools are markedly better, the operating system is becoming a bit bloated: Version 6s Java-based iConsole, Web-based iManage, and NWADMIN on the workstation perform very similar management tasks.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be contacted at [email protected]