Novell Touts Online Server fix

PROVO, UTAH (04/22/2000) - Managers of NetWare networks can now find out why their servers fail and bring them back online faster with software Novell Inc. is testing on the company's Web site.

Dubbed the NetWare ABEND Analysis System, the software determines why a NetWare 4 or 5 server fails or abends (abnormal end).

To use the ABEND Analysis System, the user uploads a log file the server keeps called the ABEND.LOG. This file lists information that is helpful in solving server failures, such as the process running at the time of the failure, the most recent entries in the memory stack, the instruction that was last executed and a list of modules running on the server.

The ABEND.LOG is analyzed by a Novell database of known causes of abends, and the user is given an answer within seconds. Each new abend incident is added to the database, also known as a knowledge base, to help future customers with their abend situations and increase the system's effectiveness.

"[The ABEND Analysis System] is the greatest thing since sliced bread," says Chip DiComo, network manager for Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, a shipping company in Miami. "For most network administrators, unless you can read the code that is generated when the ABEND happened, you don't get very far. It would have been nice to do an analysis rather than getting on the phone with someone."

Most servers fail because third-party software running on them is not compatible or systems are not updated with the latest patches, says Dirk Smith, president of server-recovery company Alexander LAN in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Alexander offers a Server Protection Kit, or SPK, that solves server failures and automatically submits data to Novell's ABEND Analysis System for future problem solving.

Smith says fixing abends is a haphazard process, riddled with complex problems a network manager is not typically trained to handle. Novell says that most server abends can be resolved by reading a memory listing kept on server activity, called a Coredump.

"Abends are often difficult to diagnose, whether the cause is hardware or software," says Michael Carroll, IT consultant to the Australian Agency for International Development in Canberra. "This tool would build a knowledge base of abends around the world, and eventually you could see trends appear in what is causing certain errors."

Even if network managers did have the skill to diagnose abends properly, it would take several hours, most of which may occur when the server is down.

Alternately, IT can call Novell's technical support to seek an answer that might take days or even weeks.

"The last time I had an abend, I called technical support and ended up e-mailing a file to them," says DiComo. "It would have been really easy to upload a file and get an automatic response."

Amy Lewis, a systems administrator at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has already used the system to solve her abend problem. When she uploaded her abend log, she received a report recommending that she use a certain patch to fix the server. "I haven't had any abends in about a week," she says.

Novell declined to say if there would be a charge for the ABEND Analysis System, which will be available as part of a support package by the end of October. Not surprisingly, some users say Novell should provide the system for free.

"Novell's ABEND software should definitely be free," Carroll says. "It's in Novell's interests to have its software seen as being as stable as possible, particularly with the current competition. This is one area where Novell kills Microsoft and [the company] should keep it that way."

NetWare ABEND Analysis System: http://abend.provo.novell.com

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