NetWare winds down with OES launch

Novell Inc. insists it is not abandoning its NetWare install base with the upcoming release of its Open Enterprise Server (OES).

Customer reaction to the news of the new release was mixed during an early November roadshow stop in Toronto as part of a North American product launch.

With OES, Novell has taken its products that run on NetWare — dubbed NetWare Services — and have made these available for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 9. Included in NetWare Services are Novell iFolder, Novell Storage Services (NSS), NetStorage, iPrint, Virtual Office, Virtual Teams, eDirectory, Clustering, ZENworks, iManager, CIM and Client Experience. Both versions of these packages ship with OES and run on NetWare and SLES. For users looking to get a sneak peek at the product, OES is now available as part of an open beta program.

When OES is released in February, NetWare users can choose to upgrade to OES or migrate to SLES 9. There will be not be a NetWare 7, Novell announced.

Daniel Sacks, manager of IT at Imaginative Computer Solutions Inc. in North Vancouver, B.C., said his company has been beta testing OES for the past two months on SUSE Linux, but not as an upgrade to NetWare 6.5. Imaginative is a reseller of products from Novell and others such as Microsoft. Imaginative has about 30 customers using various versions of NetWare, including 3.1.1, 5.1, 6.0 and 6.5.

“We know the NetWare kernel,” Sacks said. “It’s stable and does everything it’s supposed to do. But the major selling point of OES is the support (given) for the open source Linux kernel.”

Sacks said the installation for OES with SUSE is the easiest Linux install he’s ever done. Sacks has worked with Red Hat Inc.’s Linux, SUSE 9, Mandrake, Debian, Slackware and open source Unix distributions including OpenBSD and FreeBSD.

“It’s simply a smoother graphical user interface (GUI) with more intuitive prompts,” he said. Sacks explained that a user needs advanced skills to answer the questions an operating system poses in order to set up a partitioning scheme. OES made the task easy.

“[OES], like Windows, removes complex terminology and provides the simple option of creating as many partitions and drives as you want,” he said. Sacks explained this wouldn’t be an issue for an experienced engineer but noted that one of the difficulties in the past with Linux has been that it requires a high skill-level to deploy. As a result, Imaginative has had its junior technicians, with only one to three years of experience, install OES to test its level of difficulty to deploy.

So far Sacks said the NetWare tools such as eDirectory, iPrint and iFolder worked exactly the same in OES on Linux as they do in NetWare.

But the feature he finds most valuable is OES’s cross integration with Microsoft. With OES, eDirectory integrates with Microsoft’s Active Directory so that SUSE Linux can exist side-by-side with Windows 2000 and 2003 in a shared directory environment, Sacks said. Although this has been possible before with SAMBA, other Linux variants don’t have access to eDirectory, he said.

Another user is also excited about OES and the access to Linux and eDirectory it provides.

Both Willem Bagchus, president of Saturnus True Data Services Ltd. in Saint-Laurent, Que., and Louis Brezerakos, information systems administrator at D-Link Systems Inc. in Oakville, Ont., said they believe NetWare is a stable, reliable platform. The latest OES release, they said, gives users a choice when using elements of NetWare, such as eDirectory — which Bagchus considers the best directory in the market — on Linux.

“This is the perfect marriage of an established secure networking (operating) system with an emerging standard,” Bagchus said. He added that Novell’s OES will bring back into the market operating systems that compete with those from Microsoft.

According to Novell, OES makes easy the migration from NetWare to SLES because users simply install OES on SLES and port over data. But whether users choose to stick with NetWare or move onto Linux when OES becomes available is uncertain.

“I don’t know of an existing customer who is beating down the door to move to Linux, but they are saying they like having the option,” said Ross Chevalier, chief technology officer at Novell Canada Ltd. in Markham, Ont. Sacks said that while his customers have shown more interest in the Linux kernel than the NetWare kernel in terms of the new OES product, most of them likely won’t be migrating to Linux right away.

“There’s no technical reason to do that but from the customer’s perspective, they feel more comfortable that NetWare has more stability,” Sacks noted. OES will support the following combinations of NetWare and eDirectory: NetWare 4.x and NDS 6.21, NetWare 5.x and NDS 7.62c or NDS 8.58 and NetWare 6.x and eDirectory 8.7.0 and 8.7.1.

One user is skeptical. “Novell has had a history of lacking focus and I’m seeing some inclinations towards it now,” said Tom Lockhart, an IT systems manager at Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit in Belleville, Ont. The Health Unit currently uses NetWare 6 and 6.5. However, he said Novell had to do something to revitalize itself in a market where there is waning interest in NetWare. In this case, Novell is putting its money on Linux.

“The NetWare kernel is considered dead by developers,” Lockhart said.

He said the Health Unit will ultimately upgrade its NetWare boxes over to OES — it is part of the Novell Maintenance program. But Lockhart admitted he isn’t ready to make the jump to Linux just yet.

The Health Unit does run SUSE Linux on one server for Source Quench Introduced Delay (SQUID), an open source proxy server. Lockhart is concerned that some of the applications the Health Unit runs on NetWare won’t run on Linux. It means the Health Unit would have to purchase new licenses for Linux-enabled versions of its software to run on SLES 9.

Novell will continue to sell SLES 9 separately from OES and announced it would support each version of its Linux for at least five years starting from the release date.

While Novell doesn’t currently offer tools to migrate from Unix or other flavours of Linux onto OES, the upcoming operating system will include tools to migrate over from Windows.

However, Chevalier said Novell would release a new version of its Nterprise Linux Services to allow users of Red Hat Inc.’s Linux to migrate to OES. It will ship at the same time as OES.

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