NetWare 6.5 enhancements are open-source and developer friendly.
At Novell's Brainshare conference this year, the company released public beta 3 of NetWare 6.5. Novell has packed quite a bundle into the box, including a DirXML Starter Pack, MySQL server, Apache 2.0 and Novell Extend Application Server. I tested beta 3 in Network Computing's Real-World Labs® at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and believe every NetWare shop should consider making the upgrade when the product ships later this summer.
Off the bat, I noticed how much easier it is to install new servers with NetWare 6.5 compared with using earlier versions. With 6.5, an admin can select a "pattern deployment option," in Novell parlance, that lets you target servers for a specific function. You indicate the primary purpose of the server, and the software selects, installs and configures the appropriate components in a way that optimizes the server for that purpose. Available deployment patterns include Extend J2EE Web Application Server, NetWare AMP (Apache, MySQL, PHP/PERL) server, Nterprise branch office server, management server, virtual office server and NetWare Web search server.
The process for in-place upgrades has changed in 6.5. In the past, you needed to boot the server from the NetWare OS Install CD. Now the upgrade process begins from the install option of the NetWare GUI screen. You also can remotely install servers. I'm not sure I like the new starting point, as it is easy to forget to shut down running applications first. This wasn't a problem with the old way, when the upgrade started by booting from the CD.
NetWare 6.5 should win Novell points in the open-source community and with developers. To Apache, PERL and Tomcat, Novell has added the commercial version of the popular MySQL database, which means Novell customers don't have to worry about license restrictions on software developed inhouse using MySQL. NetWare 6.5 also supports PHP 4.2.3; has enhanced its PERL 5.8 support; and has replaced the Netscape-based Web server with Apache 2.
To test out the Web server, I installed some PHP applications from www.hotscripts.com. As expected, just about every project I tried worked great. You can find a few additional PHP modules for NetWare at forge.novell.com. There were a few minor glitches with these, however. For example, webnotes, a simple file-based note program, didn't like writing files back to the NetWare server.
To shake the stigma that NetWare is not an applications platform, Novell has included the Extend Application Server from last year's SilverStream acquisition. The Extend server makes it easy to write and run Web applications (for more on Web services, see "Serving Up Soap").
NetWare adds the Web portal Virtual Office to version 6.5. Virtual Office allows a variety of components for team management and maintenance, including e-mail, eGuide, password changes, Web bookmark store, and links to NetStorage and Virtual Teams--a collaboration tool.
With Virtual Teams, teams can be created by any user and may include a threaded discussion group, file space, a group calendar, shared bookmarks and a chat client. By default, team files are stored on the server's SYS:tomcat\4\webapps\nps\web-inf\communityStore directory. For an administrator to specify where to store the Virtual Office/Virtual Team files uploaded for the teams, he or she must edit the config file.
An admin can configure each Virtual Office item. All the functions I tried worked like a charm and should make it easier for NetWare users to take advantage of the operating system's resources.
Novell is moving toward remote management for all its products. For NetWare 6.5, it has included iManager 2.0, a Web interface for managing virtually everything about NetWare. IManager lets administrators designate user-role-based assignments. With the 2.0 release, iManager replaces most of the functionality of NetWare Administrator or ConsoleOne.
I was pleased to see that though iManager is Web-based, Novell makes it easy to make changes to a large number of objects at once, something that was not possible with previous versions. For example, I was able to update the fax number on several eDirectory user objects at once.
NetWare 6.5 includes a DirXML Starter Pack to help manage multiple directories. It lets administrators sync user accounts and passwords between multiple eDirectory trees, Windows NT and Active Directory, without their having to manage multiple systems or purchase DirXML at additional cost.
Virtual Office component promises increased user productivity
Universal password support for open source
Much Faster GUI Console
Admins will need additional training
DirXML difficult to understand and get running
Poor default choice for storing Virtual Office/Teams files
One of the NetWare puzzles that should finally be solved in 6.5 is passwords: Users will no longer need a different password for logging into eDirectory and Native File Access (CIFS/AppleShareIP) because Novell now uses a universal password. When a password is changed via the new NetWare client, LDAP (or any other method that supports the universal password), eDirectory and simple passwords will be updated at the same time. To maintain backward compatibility, the universal password will create the one-way hash for the eDirectory password. A set parameter on the NetWare server promises that eDirectory will not allow password changes from old clients that don't support the universal password. And when used with the updated NetWare clients that ship with 6.5, user passwords will be case-sensitive.
The NetWare OS now supports SSH (Secure Shell) for administrators connecting to the remote console or for using a secure ftp to transfer files, which means no more clear-text passwords going over the wire. And at long last, the NetWare GUI console is accessible remotely. Also, post public beta 3, the GUI console has gotten a face-lift. It is no longer written in Java, but in C, which has lowered the memory footprint and increased the speed. My testing found the GUI console loaded and performing much faster than previous versions. I was even able to access it remotely.
There are a number of improvements in the Native File Access, including the ability to lock files across all access methods. Also, the NFS server got a ground-up rewrite and its performance has improved. The NFS does have one downside: The config files for the export of the volumes and access controls have changed, and with the beta 3 release, there was no way to automatically upgrade the old config files to the new format. On a positive note, there are enhancements that let an administrator specify a DNS or IP address subset of hosts to allow access to the NFS server, instead of having to specify each individual machine.
James E. Drews is a network administrator for the CAE Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Write to him at email@example.com.
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