Novell delivers with NetWare 5.0

With the official release of NetWare 5.0 earlier this month, Novell Inc. delivered on its promise of a totally revamped network operating system, which government information technology shops— long-time NetWare mainstays— will find a worthwhile upgrade.

Like its competitors, Novell has found a new focus in the Internet. The new release also builds upon the success of its NetWare Directory Services (NDS). A vital part of the latest release includes bundled software such as Oracle Corp.'s Oracle8 relational database and Netscape Communications Corp.'s FastTrack, an entry-level World Wide Web server.

Much of the work that went into NetWare 5.0 was focused on the internals of the operating system. We installed and tested the latest version and found that Novell had improved NetWare's performance in such areas as memory management, scheduling, load balancing and support for multiple processor servers.

But Novell made other, more dramatic enhancements, such as the addition of native support for Internet Protocol (IP). Native support means users do not need to run Novell's standard Internet Packet Exchange (IPX) protocol to connect to a NetWare 5.0 server. Users now have the option of running a pure IP network— which can provide much better network performance— or continuing with a mixture of IP and IPX.

In embracing the Internet phenomenon, Novell has implemented numerous features in the core operating system that promote open standards. One big component of that system is Novell's Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

Java is a language used to develop network-based applications. Having the JVM available on the server enables users to run server-side Java applets. NetWare also supports Novell's version of an Object Request Broker, middleware technology that manages application-related communications between a server and its clients. Coupled with the FastTrack Server and the Oracle8 database, Novell is offering a pretty formidable application server.

Novell also has added features that will appeal to network administrators.

Novell has taken advantage of the success of NDS and expanded it to include such features as Domain Name Server and Dynamic Host Control Protocol management. DNS translates network domain names into IP addresses, while DHCP handles IP addresses for network devices. The new management capabilities mean DNS and DHCP parameters can be fully controlled from the Novell management console.

Novell also included support for the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol in NDS to enable organizations to establish a link between the NDS structure and the Internet-standard LDAP. NDS is a database that stores information on the hardware and software resources available on a network.

Agencies that run NetWare over a wide-area network will want to check out the new WAN Traffic Manager and WAN Policy Manager. The WAN Traffic Manager gives the administrator control over how NDS sends changes and updates over a WAN link. The WAN Policy Manager provides the ability to control the creation, deletion and editing of Traffic Manager policies.

One performance improvement that will be welcomed by agencies that use large disk volumes is the Novell Storage Services features. Our tests found NetWare 5.0 can mount large volumes in significantly less time than in previous releases. We also saw improvements in the size of individual files that can be stored on a NetWare volume.

Security also has received a lot of attention in this release. Novell integrated a number of security standards with NDS. For organizations with security concerns, the Public-Key Infrastructure Service provides a way to use NDS to manage the public keys used to encrypt and decrypt messages. NetWare 5.0 also supports Secure Authentication Services through the use of a Secure Socket Layer. The LDAP services also use SSL to establish secure LDAP connections.

Novell's strong suit has always been file and print services. NetWare 5.0 includes the Novell Distributed Print Services which offers a new approach to managing printers on the network. NDPS provides support for the latest networkable printers as well as new ease-of-use features for clients. The best part for the client is the automatic downloading of the appropriate drivers and support files.

All these new features do come at a cost of increased hardware requirements. Users will want to run NetWare 5.0 on at least a 200 MHz Pentium-class machine with 64M of memory. Users looking to run the Netscape FastTrack Server and the Oracle8 database products would do well to get a dual- or quad-processor Pentium server with a lot of memory.

NetWare 5.0 is a significant upgrade to the NetWare family of operating systems. It offers a new level of functionality and reliability features that make it well worth the upgrade. n

-- Ferrill, based at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is a principal engineer with Avionics Test & Analysis Corp. He can be reached at pferrill@fwb.gulf.net.

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