Novell unveils NetWare 5.1

Novell this week will begin the public beta test of NetWare 5.1, which analysts said includes refinements that will improve its Web server and network operating system capabilities.

"This is their formal coming-out party in the Web application server space," said Laura DiDio, an analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The product includes better integration of IBM's WebSphere standard edition application server, support for Microsoft's Office 2000, Java, Common Object Request Broker Architecture and performance improvements like a faster caching algorithm, she said.

But mostly, DiDio said, NetWare 5.1 is meant to change the product's positioning in the minds of users, who often use the platform merely for file-and-print serving or network management with Novell Directory Services. Novell's emphasis on the Web, addressed with caching and firewall products, will still have to win over users who use other Web servers.

Lee Roth, LAN and security services manager at Southwest Airlines in Dallas, said he expects the airline to take a wait-and-see approach to putting NetWare in a Web server role. Although Southwest uses Netscape Communications software on NetWare to make its Novell GroupWise e-mail available over the Web, most of the airline's Web applications are hosted on Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating system.

NetWare's appeal as an application server will grow if Novell can inspire the development community to provide applications for its platform, Roth said. But organisations probably won't want to expand the number of platforms used for one task like Web serving.

However, analyst Phil Schacter at The Burton Group in Midvale, Utah, said Novell can expand its current role with these new features. Many companies haven't yet made a universal, enterprisewide commitment to one technology for that purpose, he said.

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