Netware users eye Linux lifeline

With the local release of Novell's Netware or Linux-based Open Enterprise Server (OES) this week, Netware users are cautiously optimistic about moving to Linux but ultimately see Netware following the likes of DOS and OS/2 into the great museum of operating systems.

University of NSW faculty of commerce and economics desktop server manager Shawn Sijnstra said in a sense Netware is headed for the great museum of OSs.

However, Novell's move to port services to a totally supported SuSE Linux environment paves the way for a "smooth migration" from Netware servers.

"Naturally, it will be some time before I would consider the new environment as stable as the current one," Sijnstra said. "The OES option would be my first choice if I were starting from scratch, however, in a well-established environment there would be some [retraining] involved if the Linux core were used."

Overall, Sijnstra views the move as a positive one as a Linux core will allow Netware to become a fully-featured application server and that opportunity would be a step forward.

"By combining the multitasking environment of the Linux kernel with the desktop management solutions, they seemed to have found a new market niche," he said. "This should allow Novell to grow rather than just survive."

Regarding the upgrade path to OES, Sijnstra said it feels like a "bold step" and is not convinced unitial uptake will be strong due to the potential for problems.

"I would imagine anyone on Netware 6.x [will] take the leap to OES, but for those in a much more conservative environment still running Netware 5 or even 4, the decision will be a lot harder," he said. "On the other hand, at least Novell are leading by example and using Linux in both their server and desktop environments."

Sijnstra believes Linux is viewed positively among Netware users but his main concern is that there is a perception that Netware is finished, and that Novell is now just another Linux vendor which may make it harder to get third-party products for Netware.

Victoria's Mornington Penninsula Shire Council network manager Peter Ibbotson agrees with Sijnstra and says Netware's entrance into the OS museum is "definitely looking that way".

"We'll upgrade to OES with the Netware kernel," Ibbotson said. "Linux looks positive in the long-term but it's hard to say at this stage. We need to get a handle on Linux."

Ibbotson doesn't want to replace Netware just yet as it's "pretty bullet proof".

Novell's vice president and general manager of its SuSE Linux product Markus Rex said existing Netware customers are free to choose which path they take - stay with Netware or "slightly" migrate to Linux.

"Open Enterprise Server combines both worlds and we don't force you to migrate over," Rex said. "OES is the next generation of Netware that offers two operating system kernels."

Rex is confident that the fastest uptake of OES will be within Novell's existing customer base but believes the product opens a lot of opportunities and will be "interesting" for new customers.

"OES is what you need for a workgroup server and includes the eDirectory, iFolder, iPrint, and iManage applications," he said.

OES supports both Netware and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) but it includes a full version of SLES 9 for x86. It will ship locally by the end of the month and subscription pricing begins at around $230 per year.

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