Novell Revs Up NetWare

Company improves administration and Web services interoperability in Version 6.5 of its operating system.

Network software pioneer Novell Inc. is dusting off its operating system and readying a version that highlights improved management and administration capabilities, as well as features targeted at the developer community.

The Provo, Utah, company is readying NetWare 6.5 for a midyear ship, Rob Seely, NetWares product line manager, told eWeek earlier this month. With Version 6.5, Novell hopes to expand its traditional user base from the network administrator to the IT developer.

"We hope the Web services pieces and open-source technologies found in the product will appeal to developers," Seely said.

That plan may not pan out, however, according to some IT shops.

In most enterprises, the developer has "about as much to do with strategic decisions like platform consolidation and standards as network administrators do—which is to say, virtually none," said John Kretz, president of Enlightened Point Consulting Group LLC, in Phoenix, which runs NetWare 6, Windows 2000 and Red Hat Inc. systems.

Novell has courted developers in the past, Kretz said, with "vaporware releases intent upon allowing easy software development on the NetWare platform, but that amounted to naught. I think Novell has probably lost the developer market."

John Graves, chief administrative officer for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, disagreed, saying the combination of improved integration and better tools could attract more developers. That said, hes still not interested in upgrading.

"We use Windows to host our accounting application database, to host our Citrix servers and to host our call accounting software," said Graves, who runs NetWare 6.0 as a file-and-print server and as a GroupWise server. "NetWare 6.0 and Windows 2000 work just fine, so I see no need to switch, no matter whats in NetWare 6.5."

In the new version, Novell has expanded on some of the technology in NetWare 6 and created a solution called Virtual Office. The feature is designed to extend LAN networking to the Internet by letting workers log in from any Internet-ready PC to access e-mail, network files and applications. "Virtual Office will help put a face on the network that people can understand," Seely said.

Virtual Office will include technology called Virtual Teams to let groups collaborate and share documents. iFolder lets data be saved in a folder, online or offline, and be stored on the local hard drive and a network server.

For the network administrator, Novell has added tools to better manage storage devices and to cut bandwidth costs for remote offices.

With server consolidation and the need for backup and disaster recovery high on customer radar screens, Novell has developed a tool set that allows files, directories and information to be dragged and dropped from the old system to the new one, Seely said.

"Rather than cut and paste, its now copy and paste. This visual application allows data and files to be consolidated onto fewer storage devices, particularly onto storage area networks, and can also be used to establish backup versions of corporate data in case of disaster," Seely said.

The tool set will also work with all versions of NetWare, Windows NT and from tree to tree, he added.

NetWare 6.5 also includes Java and Web services software from SilverStream Software Inc., the application server company Novell acquired last year, which should allow developers and administrators to better integrate NetWare with other systems and applications.

Despite the new technology, Novell will have its work cut out for it, some said.

"Customers now buy fewer big machines and use them for larger workloads. NetWare is a very powerful technology, but the challenge ... is a marketing and sales one," said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst for International Data Corp., in Orlando, Fla. "IT decision makers who authorize software buying often dont know about the product and its strengths. Novell does not do a good job of getting that message out to the people who count."