NDS 8.0 offers ready network know-how

Like the mythical Phoenix, Novell Inc. has risen from the ashes as a viable, profitable company by refocusing on its core competency: networking. A major factor in the company's resurrection, Novell Directory Services lies at the heart of the company's current and future strategy. NDS 8.0 is the latest release of the product that was first introduced with NetWare 4 in 1993.

If you're running a NetWare 5.0 network, it's almost a no-brainer to upgrade to NDS 8.0. Novell provides the upgrade for free, and you can get it from the company's World Wide Web site. The benefits include increased scalability, additional standards support and improved performance.

In general, installing NDS 8.0 is a straightforward process. You'll need to make sure your system has the minimum hardware and software required for the upgrade. And if you're running NetWare 5.0 and don't have the latest service pack installed, you'll need to download it from Novell's Web site. With a file size of 65M, you'll want to start the download at a time when your network is not too heavily congested. I was able to install the NDS 8.0 upgrade on a small network in less than 30 minutes.

Scalability is a key element of NDS 8.0; the upper limit on the number of objects that NDS is capable of storing now exceeds 1 billion. And NDS 8.0 includes multiple enhancements that directly address performance concerns with such large directories, such as new database structures that break up information into multiple tables, new indexing algorithms and improved caching techniques. Of course, overall performance still will directly correlate with the server hardware, and Novell estimates you'll need at least 1G of disk space for a directory with 1 million entries.

NDS 8.0 addresses standards such as Domain Naming System for translating domain names into Internet Protocol addresses; Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol for assigning dynamic IP addresses to devices on a network; Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service, a standard authentication and accounting system used by many Internet service providers; and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) for accessing information directories.

One new feature that will be greatly appreciated by systems administrators with large numbers of users is the bulk load utility. This utility lets you add, modify or delete NDS objects and attributes using the LDAP Data Interchange Format. The only hitch is getting your user information into the LDIF. While NetWare does not include a tool for that purpose, Novell recommends several vendors that offer LDIF utilities.

NetWare 5.0 was the first version of Novell's flagship network operating system to ship with a graphical user interface for the system console. NetWare 5.0 also shipped with a console GUI application called ConsoleOne. This utility provided key portions of the NetWare Admin (NWAdmin) functionality but ran from the system console. NDS 8.0 comes with a new version of ConsoleOne that is written in pure Java and runs as a stand-alone application; it can be run either from the server or a workstation.

ConsoleOne does not run quite as fast as the NWAdmin program, but it does include a number of unique features. Unlike NWAdmin, ConsoleOne has no limit to the number of directory entries it can display. A new browse-and-find feature lets you search through large directories for specific entries.

ConsoleOne also includes a number of new capabilities, including the ability to configure LDAP services, administer all NDS objects, extend the NDS schema, set up user accounts by template and manage NetWare file services.

NWAdmin also had a number of snap-in components that aren't available with ConsoleOne. That situation should be rectified in the future because Novell intends to make ConsoleOne its primary NDS management platform.

NDS 8.0 will work with other versions of the directory, including 5.x, 4.2 and 4.1x, although there are limitations in size and functionality in a mixed-version network. At this time, NDS 8.0 is available on NetWare only. Versions for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris will be released this year.

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

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Novell Directory Services 8.0Novell Inc.(888) 453-1267www.novell.com

Price and Availability: Free for current NetWare 5.0 users via download from support.novell.com.

Remarks: The latest release of Novell Directory Services 8.0 positions the product as the front-runner in the race for an enterprisewide global directory service. Improvements in NDS 8.0 include a new client-side management program (ConsoleOne), additional support for Internet standards and greater scalability. Any site running only NetWare 5.0 will definitely want to make this upgrade. Sites running mixed versions of NetWare should check to make sure their older versions of NDS are compatible with 8.0 before upgrading.

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