Review: Novell Open Enterprise Server - InformationWeek

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Review: Novell Open Enterprise Server

Novell brings NetWare to Linux, but with a caveat--missing components mean it might pay to wait for 2.0.

Novell's Open Enterprise Server 1.0, the latest release of the company's flagship operating system, lets you run NetWare services on top of either the NetWare kernel or SLES (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server) 9. I tested the public beta of OES in the University of Wisconsin-Madison labs and found that it adds several features to NetWare, though its Linux side needs more development.

Best of Both Worlds

Based on NetWare 6.5 SP3, OES for NetWare provides all the services you'd expect. Updated components include iManager 2.5, QuickFinder 4.0 (formerly Web Search) and services typically found on Linux systems, such as support for RPM (Red Hat Package Management), bash (born-again shell) scripting and the vi editor.

OES for Linux provides all the services found in NetWare with two exceptions: Nsure Audit and Novell Licensing Services aren't included.

I installed the new OES Linux system and added it to an existing NDS test tree with just one hitch: Instead of the DNS name, I had to use the IP address of a server in the existing eDirectory tree. If you're familiar with installing SuSE Enterprise Server, you'll have no problem getting this OS running.

The Novell components on Linux use YaST (Yet another Setup Tool) plug-ins--SuSE's configuration interface--making it easy for administrators to configure them. If you prefer, you can configure the components manually after the installation, though the documentation on where the files reside and their configuration options weren't completed in the beta release.

In Short
  • Product: Novell Open Enterprise Server
  • URLs
  • Pricing
    • Contact vendor for pricing
  • Date of Release
    • February 2005
  • Phone Numbers
    • 800-453-1267, 617-464-8000
  • The Good
    • Red Carpet on NetWare
    • RPM for NetWare
    • Mixed NetWare/Linux node clusters
    • Most NetWare services on Linux
  • The Bad
    • NSS on Linux not on par with NetWare
    • Linux components lack the polish of their NetWare counterparts

Once the OES Linux server was up, I did an in-place upgrade of one of two existing NetWare 6.5 SP2 nodes. This was a breeze.

System Checkup

New for NetWare, OES provides server health monitoring. It supports CIMOM (Common Information Model Object Manager) through OpenWBEM (Web-Based Enterprise Management), which iManager 2.5 uses to let you monitor multiple servers.

I created a page in iManager and easily checked the status of my four test servers. Unfortunately, the only data for the NetWare 6.5 SP2 server in the tree was whether it was running because it lacks CIMOM support.

NSS Comes to Linux

One of the biggest enhancements Novell has brought to OES for Linux is the NSS (Novell Storage Services) file system. Although Linux has had journal file systems for years, NSS adds a bigger feature set. However, NSS on Linux won't be on par with its NetWare counterpart in this first release. Encryption, pool snapshot, archiving and versioning support are all missing.

I created an NSS pool (which is similar to a disk partition) and volume (what the end user sees) on the SLES server, then used the NSS volume from a Windows workstation with the NetWare client installed. The workstation couldn't tell that it wasn't talking to a NetWare server. I also created an iSCSI export on a NetWare SP2 server, mounted and used it on an OES for NetWare box, and then moved the iSCSI export over to the OES for Linux box and continued using it there. Those moving from NetWare to OES for Linux will find using existing NSS file stores greatly helps the conversion.

Mixed Clustering

OES lets you use a NetWare cluster containing both NetWare and Linux nodes. In theory, this mixed-node clustering should make it easier to move your system from a NetWare OS to a Linux OS. However, I had trouble getting a mixed-node cluster to run within the open beta. If I created the cluster on a Linux node, I couldn't add a NetWare node, because the Deployment Manager tool hadn't yet been upgraded to support Linux. Instead, I had to create a two-node NetWare cluster and add the Linux node to it.

Although the Linux install lets you create a single-node cluster, the Deployment Manager tool doesn't. This makes it hard to create a two-node cluster with one node running NetWare and one running Linux. The vendor said the problem wouldn't be fixed in the initial release.

iPrint

Until now, Novell's iPrint--which provides IPP (Internet Printing Protocol) support--worked only on Windows clients. With OES, iPrint now works on Linux and Macintosh clients too. IPrint requires a small client on the workstation to facilitate driver download and configuration. On Linux, this means an RPM file must be installed. For end users, iPrint support makes printing easy. Click an icon on a Web page to choose the printer, and the drivers for that printer are automatically downloaded, installed and configured.

With OES, you can run your iPrint server on NetWare or Linux. I installed the iPrint software on both sides and had no problem adding printers to the iPrint server and using them from a Windows client. I also configured iPrint to add printers to a SuSE 9.2 Linux workstation using the Firefox browser.

For Linux, iPrint enhances CUPS (Common Unix Printing System). However, iPrint administration is a bit trickier than it should be if you're using iPrint on both platforms. You'll need two iManager plug-ins for iPrint--one for Linux and one for NetWare. Novell said it would look to create a single iManager plug-in that can manage either platform.

Unix Comes to NetWare

One of the pluses of OES is getting more Linux utilities running on NetWare. For example, NetWare now can use RPM-style distributions to deliver packages to NetWare.

To make updating NetWare servers easier, Novell includes the ZEN Linux Management (from Ximian Red Carpet Enterprise) update programs rug and rcd. These weren't available on the open beta I tested, but Novell said it plans to use the Red Carpet update method to more easily distribute patches for NetWare.

OES is a big leap forward in making NetWare services work on Linux. But the Linux side of OES is still a 1.0 release. I wouldn't replace all my NetWare servers with OES for Linux just yet.

James E. Drews is a network administrator for the CAE Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Write to him at [email protected].

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