Review: Novell's Nterprise Linux Services 1.0 - InformationWeek

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2/5/2004
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Review: Novell's Nterprise Linux Services 1.0

Nterprise Linux Services 1.0 does a good job providing file, print, management, messaging and identity services.

Let's play a word-association game. When I say Novell, you say ... NetWare. The shadow of the now-legacy NOS from Novell still hangs over the big red N like fog over San Francisco Bay, but Novell is undergoing a change.

Capitalizing on the acquisition of Ximian and SuSE, the company is banking on its years of experience and leadership in file- and print-sharing services, as well as on its NOS expertise, to bring Linux-powered solutions to the data center. Its aim is to make over its image from a NetWare company to a leading provider of Linux and Linux-based products.

Novell's first move is the release of Novell Nterprise Linux Services 1.0. NNLS is a fully integrated suite of programs providing file, print, management, messaging and identity services, as well as virtual office functionality. I tested a beta version of NNLS 1.0 in our NWC Inc. business applications lab in Green Bay, Wis., and was pleased with it.

I installed NNLS on a Dell 2650 dual 2.6-GHz Xeon running Red Hat AS 2.1. Installation was painless, and services were ready for configuration within half an hour. NNLS configuration can be accomplished remotely using a browser: Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher, or Netscape 7.02 or higher.

Included with NNLS are preactivated DirXML drivers for Active Directory, eDirectory and NT Domains. I chose to configure NNLS as a primary tree for NWC Inc., rather than designate it as a secondary tree under our Active Directory server. This let me toy with NNLS' DirXML and, later, identity services to integrate with Active Directory. (Alternatively, you could integrate NNLS with existing directory implementations during installation.)

The iManager 2.0.1 component lets you manage every aspect of NNLS from a tree-based, object hierarchy. Supporting HP-UX, Linux, NetWare, Solaris and Windows, iManager installs as a collection of Java servlets running on Apache/ Tomcat, which is included with the base product. I easily created objects, including users, groups and other familiar eDirectory-based objects, from within the interface.



NNLS 1.0's Virtual Office Portal

click to enlarge
NNLS provides a big time-saver: an import/export wizard. Instead of re-creating users, I simply imported them from the NWC Inc. Active Directory server. If you're familiar with LDAP, you'll find the integration with directories a breeze.

The inclusion of Nsure Audit gives administrators notification and logging capabilities. I configured NNLS to notify me regarding events related to eDirectory (objects created/ deleted/modified, login/logout), the file system (directories and individual files) and NetWare instrumentation (server down, volumes mounted/ dismounted, protocols bound).

One Tool Fits All

Though Ximian's Red Carpet technology, which facilitates multi-server management, isn't included in NNLS, administrators can add it to select servers on a one-to-one basis. Using Red Carpet Enterprise's channel paradigm, an administrator can configure deployment of applications--custom and third-party--as well as push patches and updates to any server subscribed to the appropriate channel. The channel idea is an advanced publish-subscribe method of distributing software and updates from a central location.

Netmail supports standards-based e-mail protocols and is intuitive both to administer and to use. Messaging and calendaring services are integrated into NNLS' Virtual Office, a portal providing access to Netmail, print and file-sharing services, discussion forums, and team-based collaboration in addition to minimal groupware functionality. The only difficulty I had using Virtual Office was trying to find the URL to access it.

Configuring print services in NNLS was like configuring from NetWare. IFolders, used for remote storage, were easy to set up, and it was simple to upload and view files over the Web. Access rights to folders and individual files can be assigned on an individual or group basis. After downloading and installing the Novell print client from the Virtual Office portal, I uploaded several files, then viewed and printed a document without issue.

Team Spirit

Anyone with the rights to create a Virtual Team can do so and invite others to join. All team members share a team-only discussion forum and can subscribe to specific threads to receive notification of new posts/ replies. The Virtual Team area of the portal also contains a chat portlet that shows other team members' online status with an interface similar to AIM and other IM clients.

Good

  • Integrated cornucopia of services
  • Web administration for all configuration
  • Works with a wide variety of existing application infrastructure via DirXML 2.0

  • Bad

  • Supports only Red Hat AS 2.1, ES 2.1, and SuSE Enterprise Server 8.0
  • Requires a virgin OS for installation, which means a dedicated machine
  • Legacy feel of NetWare is evident, as in iPrint configuration

  • NOVELL NTERPRISE LINUX SERVICES 1.0, starts at $59 per user. Novell, (800) 453-1267, (801) 861-7000. www.novell.com/linux

    The inclusion of DirXML and eDirectory lets you implement managed identity services. We reviewed Novell's ID Management solution and found it to be an excellent choice for implementing corporatewide identity services.

    NetStorage provides a mechanism for configuring iFolders and NetStorage objects, similar to Microsoft's WebFolders and used by Windows clients in the same way. NetStorage lets you configure shared folders and encrypt iFolders.

    There's a lot of product to NNLS, and though it's a 1.0 release, the components making up the suite are not, on the whole, first-release products. Most of the products integrated--DirXML, iManager, eDirectory--are on second or later releases, and have been tested in the enterprise as individual products. The abundance of services provided within NNLS and its deployment on Linux, coupled with a recommended $59 per user pricing model, make a compelling product for any enterprise.

    Lori MacVittie is a NETWORK COMPUTING senior technology editor working in our Green Bay, Wis., labs. Write to her at [email protected].

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