Novell Touts Improvements but Hears Gripes

SALT LAKE CITY (03/29/2000) - Novell Inc. officials here at BrainShare Tuesday detailed incremental product improvements planned for the rest of the year, but conference attendees had other issues on their minds such as product installation and directory integration.

During a session at the conference Tuesday, questions pertaining to directory support for AS/400 and the ease, or lack thereof, of installing Novell product upgrades arose immediately after officials revealed a variety of planned enhancements.

According to a product road map, Novell this fall plans to release two NetWare enhancement packages as follow-ups to the release of NetWare 5.1. One, a file protocol enhancement pack, features support for NCP (NetWare Core Protocol), enhanced NFS (Network File System) and CIFS (Common Internet File System). The other pack, an IP enhancement pack, features enhanced symmetric multiprocessing support, NIC multithreading, IPSec security, and multiloading for NICs.

On tap for Novell this spring is ZEN for Servers 1.5, which enables consolidation of server management in a network. Novell also plans to release WebSphere Advanced 3.02, which adds support for Enterprise JavaBeans and load distribution to the Web application server environment Novell licenses from IBM and resells.

Planned for beta test release this spring or summer is a light, modular version of NetWare clients that offer only the features users need, such as ZEN management or file-access functions.

"We tried to take a smarter approach to be able to break out a NetWare client into pieces," said Craig Miller, Novell vice president of engineering for NetWare.

But attendees wanted to know about issues such as whether or not Novell plans a native port of Novell Directory Services to the IBM AS/400, given the platform's use as an e-commerce transactional system and Novell's promotion of NDS for e-commerce. Novell officials responded that products such as Novell's Single Sign-on plus some handwritten code can leverage NDS on AS/400 without running it natively. Novell's DirXML data connecting software also can be used to link NDS to AS/400, according to Novell officials.

One attendee urged Novell to pressure IBM to bring about a native port. But a Novell official responded that IBM is not a roadblock; business concerns are.

"We haven't necessarily run into opposition or resistance," said Ed Anderson, NDS product manager at Novell. "It's more a question of business value."

Despite Novell officials' explanations of workarounds to native ports, one user said anything but a native port gives the impression of difficulty of operation.

"If it's not running on the AS/400, there's a perception that the integration is difficult," said Marc Heymann, who is president of NetWare Users International, in Australia.

"We want the directory to run natively on all the important platforms," Anderson said. But he added, "Directory integration does not necessarily mean the directory runs natively on the platform."

Issues of product installation also arose.

"It's as much work to put in a support pack as it is to install the OS, in fact," one attendee charged.

Novell's Miller responded the company is working on simplifying installation and said it has improved.

Heymann urged Novell to boost educational resources.

"It's great to be able to release all these products but we need the resources to implement them," Heymann said Novell Inc., in Provo, Utah, is at www.novell.com.

Paul Krill is an InfoWorld associate news editor.

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