Novell lays out its NetWare roadmap

After months of delays and speculation, Novell Inc. finally told its loyal NetWare customers that the company’s flagship network operating system has a future.

The company will further develop NetWare 5.X, adding capabilities that will make the product more powerful and usable by more types of customers and systems. Novell, which counted on NetWare for more than half of its US$1.27 billion revenue in 1999, has been mum on the future of a product so many companies use.

The firm also said it will deliver later this year a long-promised symmetric multiprocessing version of NetWare that lets users harness the power of multiple server processors. It will ship a 64-bit version of NetWare for graphic- and compute-intensive applications when Intel delivers its 64-bit Itanium processor.

“At the last BrainShare, Novell hardly said a word about NetWare, its flagship operating system,” said Duane Fish, senior managing consultant for IT consultant Terasys in Naperville, Ill. “From that, it seemed to be safe to say that NetWare was going away and Novell was going to be a directory-based company.”

Fish said his firm will stick with NetWare 5.1 until there is a compelling business case to move to a different operating system.

While analysts say users will migrate away from NetWare in increasing numbers this year, NetWare’s future isn’t as dismal as one might suppose. The company will ship one million NetWare 5.X servers this year, up from 580,000 last year, said research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass. A Gartner Group study concluded that Novell will not lose its installed base leadership until 2002.

As part of further NetWare 5.X development, in the next year Novell will ship several enhancement packs. These packs, which will bolster network performance and scalability, will include IP, file and directory services.

The IP Enhancement Pack will let NetWare 5.X use all the processors in a server.

The File Protocol pack will include Macintosh and Common Internet File System (CIFS) clients, but not Distributed File System (DFS) clients.

The directory service pack, dubbed TAO, is Novell’s next release of Novell Directory Services eDirectory, which makes use of partitions and lets users blend and merge directories.

Novell will also release a 32-bit version of NetWare for multiprocessor servers in the first or second quarter of next year that will include processor failover, selective processor matching and DFS support. That 32-bit product, which Novell has promised for three years, is code-named Six-Pack. It will support up to 32 processors and enter beta testing by year-end.

“We buy multiprocessor servers for [Windows] NT but haven’t for NetWare in the past because it made no use of them,” said Ron Delbert, net and systems manager for Baltimore County Government in Towson, Md. Microsoft has supported up to 32 processors since introducing Windows NT 4.0.

“With a highly dispersed enterprise like ours that has a full range of office sizes, we’d love to be able to scale our NetWare and GroupWise servers to fit each need and take advantage of multiprocessor hardware,” Delbert said. Delbert manages 65 NetWare servers.

The same is also true for Rocco Esposito, chief technology officer for window-coverings manufacturer Hunter Douglas, in Upper Saddle River, N.J. “Our Internet stuff will be upgraded to Six-Pack because of disk flexibility, and the perceived uptime [multiprocessing support] will bring,” Esposito said. “Every [server] is multiprocessor-ready.”

Novell also plans a 64-bit version of the operating system code-named Modesto that will consist of an optimized operating system kernel that has different modules bolted to it. The company’s first implementation of Modesto will be a caching device. It will be followed in the first part of 2001 by a storage appliance that runs the Unix Network File System, Microsoft’s CIFS, and Novell’s NetWare Core Protocol, and supports a slew of clients.

As for 64-bit Modesto as an operating system, users aren’t willing to step out on that plank, yet. “[Intel’s Itanium] is too far out to make a decision today,” Esposito said. “I would need to compare [Modesto] to then-present Microsoft offerings. This is particularly true because I have to purchase new hardware to gain [64-bit] benefits.”

Novell, in Provo, Utah, is on the Web at