Product review: Netoria's ScheMax raises the value of NDS

The slogan "one size fits all" does not apply particularly well in the computing world. As powerful as it may be out of the box, Novell Directory Services (NDS) cannot realise its maximum benefit without some customisation to the schema -- the rules that govern the database structure underlying NDS. A change such as the addition of a Social Security number requires an extension to the schema.

Without some custom programming or a third-party snap-in to provide the desired features, administrators have found it difficult to take advantage of custom schema extensions. Help is on the way from Netoria's ScheMax, which offers a simple, graphical way to make and use schema extensions without any programming. (I tested a beta version, but the product is currently shipping.)I have been waiting for a tool like this, and although not all features were enabled in this beta release, ScheMax looks very promising. You can already make schema extensions with Novell's Schema Manager, but Novell's NWAdmin utility needs to be extended with a snap-in or a new application needs to be written to put them to use -- and that is where ScheMax fits in.

Like many of the helpful add-ons available for NetWare, ScheMax works primarily as a snap-in to NWAdmin. There are no modules to be loaded on the servers. A separate viewer application is included to allow users to access customised object-property pages, without having to run NWAdmin.

Once I installed ScheMax, I had several new functions integrated into NWAdmin. I could open a graphical layout of my NDS schema with the Schema Administrator. Using Schema Administrator's Explorer-like interface, I could browse the properties of NDS classes and attributes.

The final version of the Schema Administrator will allow the user to add new classes (this can now be done via Novell's Schema Manager), but this feature was not enabled in this beta version.

ScheMax's greatest asset is its Snapins tool, which let me insert snap-in objects in the NDS tree that I could use to create schema attribute extensions, as well as new property pages for use in NWAdmin or the ScheMax Viewer. For example, I created a snap-in to add attributes and an information page to user objects.

Modifying the NDS schema is not a task to be taken lightly, because changes to base classes cannot be rolled back. I was pleased to see that ScheMax allows potential extensions to be fully modelled in NWAdmin before incorporation into the NDS tree.

Apart from some clean-up and a few feature gaps left to fill, ScheMax looks like a useful addition to an administrator's toolbox.

Mike Connell is a systems analyst in Austin, Texas. You can reach him at mconnell@flash.netTHE BOTTOM LINEScheMax 1.0, betaThis tool promises to become a powerful one in helping administrators take greater advantage of NetWare's NDS. The NDS schema is easily extended with ScheMax's simple utilities.

Pros: Modifies the NDS schema without requiring programming skills; can model new schema attributes before making permanent modificationsCons: Node-based pricing will make this costlyNetoria, Orem, Utah; +1 (801) 227-0722; fax: +1 (801) 221-1688; www.netoria.comPrice: From $US11.50 per node for 50 to 99 nodes to $6.90 per node for 500 to 999 nodesPlatforms: Server: NetWare 4.x, 5.0; Clients: Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT 4.0Ship date: Available now

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