NetWare 5.0 Proves Worth the Upgrade

With its recent release of NetWare 5.0, Novell Inc. delivered on its promise of a totally revamped network operating system, which government information technology shops-longtime NetWare mainstays-will find a worthwhile upgrade.

Like its competitors, Novell has found a new focus in the Internet and has adopted several related standards. The new release also builds upon the success of its NetWare Directory Services (NDS). In addition, Novell bundles Oracle Corp.'s Oracle8 relational database and Netscape Communications Corp.'s FastTrack, a World Wide Web server.

Much of the work that went into NetWare 5.0 was focused on the internals of the operating system. We 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.

Native support for IP is what convinced Steve Williams, network manager with New Mexico's General Service Division, to migrate to NetWare 5.0. The division is a longtime NetWare customer, using the network operating system to provide file and print services for its 400-node network

''We're really looking forward to running pure IP protocol on the network,'' he said. ''It will save us a lot in terms of costs, troubleshooting and training.''

The division provides network support to its own staff as well as other small agencies that can't afford their own networks. With NetWare 5.0 now supporting IP, the division can support more agencies such as the state's Board of Nursing, which has a router that won't support the IPX protocol.

''Our biggest issues are cost, and the No. 1 issue is personnel costs,'' Williams said, pointing out that NetWare technicians are easier to find and less expensive than Windows NT technicians. ''Our goal is to [provide] our services to as many other agencies for as cheap as possible. We have to drive down own cost per node, and NetWare helps us do that.''

Besides IP support, the feature of NetWare 5.0 that Williams likes best is the improved backup scheduling. Now administrators can schedule unattended backups for days into the future, instead of just the next day.

Improved Performance

NetWare's two biggest tasks always have been file and print services. With Version 5.0, Novell has introduced new features that enhance the functionality and performance of both services. Novell Storage Services (NSS) is the new name for everything connected with file services. Many common tasks that took a lot of time are significantly faster with NSS. For example, mounting large volumes, which used to take several minutes, is about 10 times faster.

NetWare treats each disk partition as a single volume and allows you to manage files either individually or globally for the entire volume. In previous versions, NetWare would build a table of information about each volume when you mounted it for access-a process that could take several minutes for large disk partitions. With the new version of NSS, this process is greatly improved and requires fewer system resources to accomplish.

In the print services area, Novell has introduced Novell Distributed Print Services. Developed in conjunction with printer manufacturers Hewlett-Packard Co. and Xerox Corp., NDPS makes managing printers a simple task. For example, NDPS provides automatic printer discovery and configuration along with automatic download of print drivers.

The only area that doesn't measure up in terms of performance is the new ConsoleOne Java-based graphical user interface (GUI), which has limited functionality and runs rather slowly. You'll probably still need to use NetWare Administrator, NDS Manager or ManageWise for many management and administration tasks.

New Features

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 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.

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.Upgrade Advice

If you choose to upgrade, you'll find that migrating to Version 5.0 is nothing like the trauma of moving from NetWare 3.x to NetWare 4.x. The latest NDS structure essentially is the same, although a new client needs to be installed. In fact, the benefits of the new release far outweigh any minor inconveniences you may encounter.

Before deciding to upgrade, be sure to consider the hardware requirements for servers running NetWare 5.0. You'll need an Intel Corp. Pentium-based server with at least 64M of RAM, 550M of disk space, a CD-ROM that can read ISO-9660 CD-ROMs and a VGA-compatible display adapter. You'll also need to decide what applications you want to run on your server, such as Oracle8 or FastTrack. Both of those applications require a substantial amount of memory, meaning you'll need at least 128M of memory for the server.

Of the installation process, New Mexico's Williams said: ''It was the easiest install I ever did. I was very impressed with it.'' So were we.

We loaded NetWare 5.0 from scratch, but if your machine can boot from a CD-ROM, you'll be able to load NetWare 5.0 from the distribution CD. However, the CD-ROM drive must support the El Torito specifications, which were written by Phoenix Technologies Ltd. and IBM Corp. to describe bootable CD-ROMs.

NetWare 5.0 requires a 50M boot partition and a 500M system partition. The new installation program uses a Java-based GUI to make the process easier. Many of the installation options use an auto-detect feature to present you with a list of choices based on the environment detected. A Novell migration wizard guides you through the upgrade process while preserving your existing bindery and file system data.

Once the network operating system has been loaded, you must separately install Oracle8 and FastTrack. The Oracle8 installation uses the standard NetWare installation utility, while FastTrack must be installed from a client machine running the 32-bit NetWare client that ships with NetWare 5.0. l

Paul 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.

NetWare 5.0Novell Inc.(801) 321-4272www.novell.com

Price and Availability: State and local governments can receive discounted pricing under Novell's commercial Master License Agreement. A single-server license with five nodes will run $789, with a required maintenance fee of $165. Additional nodes run from $657 for five nodes to $17,817 for 500 nodes. Required maintenance prices run $139 for five nodes and $3,742 for 500 nodes. State and local governments making larger purchases may receive lower pricing.

Remarks: NetWare 5.0 represents a significant upgrade to the venerable NetWare operating system, with many new performance and feature enhancements. The installation process is straightforward, while the migration wizards provide an easy way to upgrade existing systems.

Final Score: Very Good

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