After a long period in the doldrums giving a very good impression of being on a downhill slide, Novell has bounced back with NetWare 4.11 and IntranetWare.
These platforms show Novell is recovering from what first appeared to be a doomed descent as parts of its business - such as the applications division - were jettisoned with alacrity in 1995 merely to stay aloft.
At the time there was no indication this would lead to a resumption of forward progress.
IntranetWare includes NetWare 4.11 and adds the pieces that allow you to extend a NetWare 4.11 local area network into a wide area network and full Internet/intranet publishing solution. Although some users will only need NetWare 4.11 it makes more sense for most to take the identically-priced IntranetWare package with its extra scalability options.
Having started life as the Green River project with a rather more grandiose ambition to be NetWare 5.0, the delivery of NetWare 4.11 and IntranetWare represents an especially astute piece of marketing. Fortunately for users, IntranetWare also happens to be an excellent platform with which to take local area networks into the new world of networked computers.
NetWare 4.11 and IntranetWare together offer a credible upgrade path to existing NetWare 3.11 users who have been evaluating alternatives such as Microsoft Windows NT or avoiding NDS with NetWare 3.12. The .11 version number also happens to carry an evocative reminder of the much-loved NetWare 3.11, which must be more than a happy accident.
NetWare 4.11 is ostensibly a minor point upgrade but neatly positions the product as the right upgrade for wavering NetWare 3.11 users. A point-on-one upgrade suggests fine-tuning of a stable product and NetWare 4.11 definitely meets this expectation.
The emergence of Java, (and Novell's intention to integrate it into NetWare), coupled with the boom in interest in intranets, has enabled Novell to put together a timely package that provides both encouragement to existing NetWare customers to upgrade and a solid platform for new customers looking for intranet/Internet solutions. With Java set to revolutionise network application development Novell, with its sizable NetWare user base, has suddenly become a much more interesting proposition for network application developers.
Now with integrated support for Internet protocols in NetWare 4.11 and IntranetWare, NetWare houses can begin a phased migration from NetWare IPX/SPX transports to the Internet protocols that have become the de facto standards for networked computing.
Several Novell IP products, previously sold separately, have been folded into the two new products. NetWare Web Server 2.5 and NetWare/IP 2.2 are now part and parcel of NetWare 4.11 enabling the construction of IPX, mixed IP/IPX, and IP-only NetWare LANs offering intranet Web publishing services.
IntranetWare includes the NetWare Multiprotocol Router and NetWare IP-to-IPX Gateway enabling NetWare networks to be connected and extended across enterprises and the Internet. The Multiprotocol Router supports leased lines, ISDN, Frame Relay, ATM and asynchronous dial-up. An enhanced Internet Client, which adds FTP, Telnet and terminal emulation, is an optional extra combining elements of LAN WorkPlace and NetWare Mobile.
The NetWare IP-to-IPX Gateway also enables workstations running the new NetWare Client 32 over IPX to enjoy full Internet access through a single static IP address assigned to the IntranetWare server. This is a convenient security measure offering protocol separation between IPX clients on local area networks and IP users on the other side of the IntranetWare server.
Both NetWare 4.11 and IntranetWare include DHCP services for dynamic IP address allocation and the Netscape Navigator browser for network clients.
NetWare 4.11 also delivers enhancements to the five standard NetWare services - file, print, directory, security and management. Management and administration have been a particular focus. NetWare 4.11 integrates several existing Novell and third-party utilities which make the NetWare Directory Services on which NetWare's future depends a much more compelling attraction for both NetWare 3.xx and Microsoft Windows NT Server users.
Migration utilities now allow the proposed migration to be modelled and examined before going ahead with the actually implementation.
The extension of NDS to Microsoft Windows NT (now in beta) and the Internet enables Novell to offer the technology as a simple graphical management and administration tool for mixed networks bypassing the headaches of Windows NT Domains and Internet addresses. Network management and administration tools are now centralised in NetWare Admin which includes hooks for Novell's NetWare ManageWise management package and for third-party utilities which can be snapped into NW Admin.
A new utility, the NetWare Application Launcher, provides a single point of entry to the network for users and allows NetWare administrators to manage applications services centrally. Applications are added to NDS, set up with access rights and other properties through NW Admin, and then made available through NetWare Application Launcher. The location of both the applications and of the users becomes transparent, allowing network administrators to arrange for load balancing and fail-over support with multiple application servers. If a server fails new users logging in are directed to an alternative server. Similarly, users can log into the network from any location and the NetWork Application Launcher will display their individual application setup.
The hardware detection capabilities of NetWare 4.11 are much improved and now include PCI detection, ISA Plug and Play support and PC Card support.
The new version also introduces the NetWare Peripheral Architecture (NWPA), a modular driver architecture which will simplify driver development and allow drivers to be loaded dynamically without having to restart the server.
NetWare 4.11 also integrates support for symmetric multiprocessor Intel systems up to the four-way Pentium Pro SMP systems now becoming more generally available and more affordable.
Easier administration, plus improved hardware support, greatly simplifies the installation and administration of NetWare to the point where it can be favourably compared with Microsoft Windows NT even though NetWare still lacks graphical setup and configuration.
NetWare's access security is less convoluted than that of Windows NT, so other services such as messaging via NetWare GroupWare are completely integrated with NetWare Directory Service. This now makes it easier to manage large sites and to scale a NetWare installation with NDS than with Microsoft Windows NT domains. Although a priority at Microsoft, its directory service is not expected to be as all-encompassing as NDS until Windows NT 5.0 ships in late1997 or early 1998.
Although NetWare 4.11 runs on a 386 processor, a 486 or better is preferable and 20MB RAM is now the minimum. The network operating system, excluding user data, now requires at least 110MB of hard disk space. Client support is included for Windows (3.1, 95 and NT), DOS, OS/2 and the Apple Macintosh.
The preferred client is the new NetWare Client 32 which is available for DOS and Windows (versions as above).
NetWare 4.11 and IntranetWare differ slightly in the package contents but carry an identical price tag. Pricing is easy to understand too as there are no client licences, only server ones.
Thanks to the Internet (and its private equivalent the intranet), having established IP protocols as the de facto open standard and also to Sun's Java environment which in time will provide the lingua franca for cross-platform network applications, Novell has been given another chance.
With NetWare 4.11 and IntranetWare, Novell has seized the opportunity and responded in a timely fashion with a well-considered offering. Although it lacks some of the bells and whistles of competitors' products, IntranetWare feels solid and reliable. In fast-changing times that should appeal to network administrators. The slow uptake of both Novell NetWare 4.x and Microsoft Windows NT Server over the past few years shows that network administrators now need stable, manageable networks more than they need to be on the bleeding edge.
PRODUCT AND CONTACT DETAILS
NetWare 4.11 and IntranetWare are available from Novell dealers. Prices start at #726 for a 5-user pack. Contact Novell's Web site at www.novell.com
VERDICT: INTRANETWARE/NETWARE 4.11
- Easier installation
- Integrated directory services
- Integrated Internet protocol support
- Application support dependent on Java developments
- Printer management delayed until next release.
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