Novell preps Net-friendly release of NetWare

Novell Inc. next month will introduce the next version of its network operating system, due out later this year, as well as a new tool to centrally manage PCs on a network.

NetWare 5 is Novell's first "pure" Internet Protocol network operating system that is designed to connect networks directly to the Internet and other IP-based networks. It is compatible with earlier versions of NetWare, which use Novell's Internet Packet Exchange (IPX) and Sequenced Packet Exchange protocols.

"The core of what we have to offer is a platform users can build on that can connect to the Internet," said Coleman Barney, director of platform product marketing at Novell. It is important, he added, that current users of NetWare 3.x and NetWare 4.x protect their investments and have an easy way to migrate to the latest version.

"NetWare 3 servers are being added all the time, and we experienced even faster growth with NetWare 4," Barney said. "If the operating system functions the way we promised, users will keep the old versions and add the new. That's why the Migration Gateway is so important."

The Migration Gateway, available in NetWare 5, provides a gateway that links the IP segments with the IPX segments on the network. This allows users to access information on the network during the migration process, "so if you have NetWare 4 or 3, you can bring in NetWare 5 and not be concerned," Barney said. Another feature, dubbed Compatibility Mode, will let users run IPX-dependent applications, even after migrating to an IP-only network.

In what should increase the number of applications developed for NetWare, NetWare 5 will have a built-in Java Virtual Machine for running Java applications. "Our goal is to have the highest-performing Java execution on the market," Barney said. "It helps us beef up in the area of new application development. Java is the No. 1 platform people are investigating when it comes to networking [applications]."

Attractive to Government Users

Government users should find the native support for IP attractive, said Richard Carlson, director of major market operations at Novell. "We've reduced the complexity of the network at the protocol level significantly," he said. Add to that support for Java, memory protection and LDAP Version 3 to access directory services, and NetWare 5 is a "compelling argument in the Internet space."

Novell also highlighted a new directory-enabled network management tool called Zero Effort Networks (ZEN Works) that will be available in April. A ZEN Works Starter Pack will be included in NetWare 5.

ZEN Works automates software distribution and allows network administrators to monitor and repair Windows-based PCs from a central location. As with NetWare 5, ZEN Works is directly tied to Novell Directory Services, which acts as a database of information about users, applications and equipment on the network.

"NDS links all the information on the network within the directory," Barney said. "NDS is really our heart and soul as we move ahead."

ZEN Works should make NDS more compelling, said Rick Villars, the director of network software research at International Data Corp. "Most people don't install a directory for the good of it [because] it's no trivial task," he said, "so you have to give people a compelling reason to do it. ZEN Works offers all the functions needed to make the desktop [easier] to manage centrally in one integrated package."

NetWare 5 is already in its second beta release and is being tested by more than 45,000 users, including some in the government.

Novell will ship Beta 3 in the first week of April, which will contain the complete NetWare 5 software code.

The new products will be sold off the General Services Administration schedule as well as contracts currently selling NetWare including the Navy's PC LAN+.

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