Novell this week introduced software designed to let users access and store files regardless of where they log on from - an offering observers say is a good example of software that takes advantage of existing network directories.
Novell's software - code-named iFolder Storage Services - enables users whose computers are outfitted with a Web browser or special client software to retrieve and store files on servers residing on corporate networks or in service provider data centers. Network directories authenticate users and grant them access to files.
New Novell products such as iFolder "exploit the directory," says Neil McDonald, an analyst with Gartner Group. "People don't care about directories- they care about what you can do with the directory. That's where Novell is finally coming to market with products that solve business problems."
The primary piece of iFolder sits on a NetWare server running Apache Web server or a Windows NT/2000 server running Microsoft's Internet Information Server. A client component runs on Windows machines and works with popular Web browsers.
When an iFolder user creates a file in the C drive My Documents folder on his machine, the file is copied to an iFolder server over whatever communications link is being used, possibly the Internet. To conserve bandwidth usage and reduce latency, modifications to files can be copied to the server without the entire file being transferred. In this respect, iFolder is more efficient at handling files than competing products such as Microsoft's Intellimirror, observers say.
Each iFolder transaction is sent and stored in an encrypted fashion, protecting user data from Internet snooping or the eyes of network administrators or service provider personnel.
IFolder lets users decide if they want to share files with others. The software works with Novell Directory Services eDirectory and any Lightweight Directory Access Protocol-enabled directory, such as Microsoft's Active Directory, to provide access and user authentication.
Michael McKenney, IS manager for Americorp Financial in Birmingham, Mich., says the technology could be a boon to traveling salespeople. With more hotels and remote offices using DSL and other such broadband connections, he says, "Users could go back to the hotel and connect to the DSL and backup."
IFolder will be sold on a stand-alone basis, included as part of the next version of NetWare 6 and delivered as part of service provider offerings. IFolder will work on any NetWare 4.x network as long as the iFolder server is running on a NetWare 5.1 or 6 machine.
Pricing is not available for the product, which is slated to ship this summer.