NetWare-Linux combo wins approval

IT professionals are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Novell's next-generation operating system, which combines its legacy NetWare with Linux.

The company, which acquired Linux vendor SuSE in November 2003, is expected to announce next month at the LinuxWorld conference in Boston that Open Enterprise Server (OES) is available. OES has two kernels -- one NetWare and one Linux -- with services such as file and print and identity management layered on top. With OES, IT professionals have a migration path from legacy NetWare to Linux and can choose which kernel to deploy applications upon.

OES has been in private and open beta-testing since August. Novell says that some 5,200 unique customers have downloaded the beta software.

Among them is Justin Grote, network architect for integrator JWG Networks.

"Novell made (and delivered on) some big promises such as native Samba, Novell Storage Services and shell access to Linux servers all coordinated through Novell's eDirectory," he says. "The integration of iManager to manage the OES Linux servers is quite impressive."

Grote says he is also happy to see Novell resurrect one of his favorite tools -- NetWare Remote Manager -- on Linux through use of open source technology called OpenWBEM.

The integration of Novell's Health Monitor with OES also is helpful, Grote says. With Health Monitor, administrators can view the status of their servers, printers and other networked devices.

"It's like having an SNMP manager on every single server monitoring all of their vital signs and then passing along any warnings or concerns to whatever centralized reporting system my heart desires," Grote says.

Another beta tester, Jeffrey Johnson, gives high marks to Novell for making it easy for administrators to migrate data between NetWare and Linux file systems.

"Moving Novell Storage Services volumes between NetWare and Linux is like watching a David Copperfield show -- you see it but you just cannot believe it is happening," says Johnson, who deals with 100 NetWare servers as a systems software engineer at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

Novell also has optimized NetWare's performance, users say.

"All of the previous services not only run flawlessly but run faster than their NetWare counterparts," says Ryan Toole, network technician for Broome-Tioga Board Of Cooperative Educational Services in Binghamton, N.Y.

Johnson also has noticed the improvements.

"OES on NetWare makes some excellent improvements on memory management and the communication stack -- WinSock, TCP/IP," he says. WinSock is an API for implementing applications such as FTP that use TCP/IP.

Praise for OES even comes from some unexpected places.

"The Virtual Office Web collaboration tool is really nice and would probably make a good alternative to Windows Sharepoint Services," says Oliver Garraux, a technology aide at Maize High School, who plans to go into IT.

"Some of the administration interfaces, such as iManager, are understandably a little awkward for someone that has little or no NetWare experience like me," he says. But "I'm excited about OES because it seems to be one of the first fairly simple- to-set-up Linux distributions that can compete feature-wise with Microsoft's Windows Server."

Not quite perfect

While the reaction to OES has been generally positive, users say that several features are missing.

Johnson says he would like to see the ability to cluster eDirectory on the NetWare kernel for redundancy.

"One of the things OES has that NetWare doesn't is identity management clustering," he says. "The OES Linux kernel lets you create two clustered volumes for fault-tolerance."

Grote also would like to see a way to migrate NetWare servers to Linux.

"Now you have to wipe the NetWare servers if you want to move them over to Linux," says Grote, who plans to run iPrint, eDirectory, iManager, Apache, MySQL, PHP and GroupWise on the Linux OES kernel.

Novell, too, is an avid user of its new operating system -- more than half the company's servers run OES. The company plans to release the next version of OES, code-named Cypress, in August 2006. The company says it will ship Novell client software for Linux this summer and a 64-bit version of OES for AMD64 and Intel EMT64 this year.

Novell wouldn't disclose pricing.

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