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Novell's OES provides ties between NetWare and Linux

By Tom Henderson, Network World
August 08, 2005 12:04 AM ET

Network World -

Depending on how you look at it, Novell's Open Enterprise Server is either more of the same old stuff, or a major breakthrough in how advanced services can be built to run on a variety of base operating system kernels.

Based on our Clear Choice Test of OES , we think it's a major breakthrough in Novell's long-stated intention to marry its directory and administrative applications to Linux. OES layers a highly competitive directory service onto Linux, provides decidedly evolved administrative and management components and offers very good, egalitarian client support.

With OES you get a choice: traditional NetWare (Version 6.5 with Service Pack 3), or traditional Linux (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 [SLES] with Service Pack 1). NetWare shops can now peer Linux applications and services with NetWare-hosted eDirectory and Novell-based identity-management services. On the flip side, Linux-based IT organizations can now plug into a cohesive, mature, encrypted authentication infrastructure that's commercially supported worldwide.

A single OES license entitles the user to build two servers of either foundational type and cluster them together. The OES glue that binds the two base operating systems together is eDirectory, which is easier to implement, manage and administer than the open source OpenLDAP directory service. Novell has made the eDirectory services largely congruent across both kernels.

The downside that still remains for both NetWare and Linux users - even with OES - is that connectivity to Windows Active Directory and NT domains creates a duplicate layer of directory services because that integration requires the installation of Samba proxy services to make the necessary connections.

Both versions of OES can be managed by iManager 2.5, a browser plug-in that gets to the heart of virtually all OES services worth mentioning - especially Novell's evolved eDirectory. This application uses browser real estate efficiently but begs for a high-resolution screen. On the Linux side of OES, where iManager leaves off, SLES 9's Yet Another Setup Tool (YaST) takes over for driving operating system-specific configuration and administration detail such as hardware management, low-level settings and DNS/DHCP tasks. In our tests, we hardly used YaST.

Unlike with the Windows 2003 server editions we've tested, Linux and MacOS clients aren't second-class clients. OES provides maximum security measures available for these clients, including easy logon script support and encrypted server communication. The odd client out is Novell's Desktop System client, based on Linux, which doesn't have a peer client-side connectivity method that generic Linux, MacOS and Windows clients do.

While both foundation kernels will run on 64-bit CPUs (which we tested and found no anomalies), both OES application sets are limited to 32-bit use and are only supported by Novell at that level. We found that performance of Web-based transaction tasks was only slightly faster (ranging from no appreciable increase to a 7% rise in throughput on SLES 9 OES) than the versions of NetWare 6.5 (DocFinder: 8326) and SLES 9 (DocFinder: 8327) we've tested in the past. Novell says that a cross-platform, full 64-bit version set of OES services is scheduled to arrive early next year.

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