Novell enhances remote access package

Novell Inc. on Wednesday took the wraps off the latest version of its Nterprise Branch Office software, which lets customers deploy the offering in Linux and Windows environments, as well as in NetWare shops.

Dubbed Nterprise Branch Office 2.0, the package also includes a local GroupWise e-mail server for branches, a Novell ZENworks-supported configuration for distributing applications and better disaster recovery capabilities.

Nterprise Branch Office 1.0 was launched in November 2002 with the goal of reducing the IT costs associated with running a distributed enterprise. The software package runs on a dedicated server at the branch office and allows branch users to plug into file storage, printing resources and e-mail that are all managed centrally.

Using the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), Nterprise Branch Office caches user accounts from the central corporate directory onto the branch server, so the corporate directory doesn’t need to span the entire network. The software, which originally ran only in NetWare environments, also backs data up securely over the WAN.

“The intent is to make it a hands-free server deployment for the branch,” said Matt French, product manager for Nterprise Branch Office for Novell in Provo, Utah. “You put it out there once and it runs.”

By adding the local GroupWise e-mail server, users should be able to reduce their WAN traffic even further, because e-mail that’s intended for users at the same branch office won’t need to travel over the WAN, French noted.

Nterprise Branch Office faces three main competitors, according to French. These include Microsoft Corp. with its general purpose Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 server deployments, which still require localized back-up; network attached storage products, which can handle file services, but not print and e-mail; and Citrix, which creates a complete consolidation of computing power at the corporate centre with the drawback that if the WAN goes down, users can’t work.

Dan Kuznetsky, an analyst with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, noted that serving the remote office has been a major thrust for Novell for some time. “There are opportunities for Novell in finding ways to reduce the complexities of remote branch operations,” he noted, “and to make it possible for organizations to lower their overall costs by having products that don’t require much overall care, or require care that can be delivered across the network from a central location.”

By packaging remote file services, print services, e-mail and disaster recovery into one package, Novell may be more attractive to customers looking for a simple, complete product rather than a series of technically superior point products, Kuznetsky said.

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