NetWare's urban myths

* What The Inquirer said about NetWare

Some of you no doubt read The Inquirer. No, not the urban myth spreading rag out of Florida, but the irreverent British IT news Web site that says it prints "news, reviews, facts and friction." Recently, The Inquirer carried a story about a briefing session Novell ran in London to outline its Linux strategy as well as to introduce Open Enterprise Server (see link below).

While the writer got the overall flavor (or "flavour") right, there were a number of, to me, annoying little errors that made the story hard to accept and served to perpetuate a few urban myths about NetWare and other operating systems.

The author didn't seem to grasp that there's a difference between the NetWare kernel and the services that run on top of the kernel. He seemed to feel that when installing OES, you installed SuSE Linux and then put either Linux or NetWare services on top of that. He then revived the urban myth that older versions of NetWare ran on top of DOS! Now, I'd thought that had been put to rest many years ago, but evidently it hadn't.

NetWare never ran on top of DOS. A server was booted to DOS solely to run the NetWare boot loader (a DOS program). It didn't need to do that, it could have booted directly but that would have required Novell to build its own BIOS loader to initialize all of the hardware. The NetWare designers felt that there was no need to reinvent the wheel, so let DOS handle that. Once the NetWare boot loader ran, though, DOS was removed from the server operation although it generally remained in memory so that, when NetWare exited, it could be re-invoked rather than having to re-boot the hardware. Novell even gave us the "Remove DOS" command, ostensibly for security purposes (so that the server couldn't be re-started without re-booting the hardware) but I've always thought it was put there simply for those skeptics who refused to believe that NetWare wasn't a DOS-based application.

Further adding to this myth, though (and also mentioned in The Inquirer article) was the OS/2 version of NetWare. This did, indeed, run as a service on the IBM OS/2 operating system. The benefit to this was that you could run both a server session and a client session simultaneously giving you a "network in a box" solution that was a boon for those of us who needed to quickly set up and take down a demonstration network. Nowadays, of course, you can use VMWare to do that. That simply wasn't possible to do on a single-threaded operating system such as DOS.

A big tip of the hat to reader Igor Gervits for bringing the latest instance of this urban myth to my attention.

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