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Novell offers a way out of ‘DLL hell’

Jun 17, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Novell teams with Zero G to launch Common Software Manageability Initiative

Ever since Novell first introduced the graphical installation tool (with NetWare 5), users have complained and bemoaned the loss of the old command-line interface coupled with the C-worthy (those blue screen boxes) menu system. Of course, other users had scoffed at the command-line and C-worthy interfaces and compared them (unfavorably) with Windows’ installation tools.

But one Novell application, exteNd Directory (formerly Novell Portal Services) has a Java-based, graphical installation program that most people seem to like. It uses Zero G’s InstallAnywhere technology, which many feel is not only the best Java installation tool but the best installation environment for any platform. Some folks at Novell agree with that sentiment, so at last week’s JavaOne conference they joined with Zero G to launch the Common Software Manageability Initiative (CSMI).

In the high-flying rhetoric of public relations firms, CSMI’s objectives are defined as:

* To publish a standards-based deployment package that encapsulates the operational requirements throughout an application’s lifecycle.

* To define a holistic versioning system for a computing system’s desired state.

* To provide a manageability interface based on the Common Information Model (CIM) for application delivery, configuration and operations management.

What that means is that they hope to design a methodology that will allow for the easy installation and rational maintenance of software packages based on publicly available standards. CSMI will be anchored in the CIM of the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF). The newest CIM specification and schema (Version 2.7) was just recently adopted by the DMTF (see

Anyone applying Support Packs to Novell products (especially to products running on a NetWare platform) know the “module mania” that sees earlier libraries overwriting later ones, or applications and services that use different (and incompatible) versions of support modules. In many ways, NetWare has reinvented the phenomena known as “DLL hell” which occurred in the early days of Windows 9x operating systems when different applications would install different versions of the .DLL support files. Everyone agrees that something needs to be done. What they (so far) haven’t agreed on is exactly what should be done. CSMI could end that argument.

The person who’s been involved deeply with Novell’s iManage Portal for a while, and who is the lead proponent for CSMI, is a man affectionately known as “the rev.” Ted Haeger (see – best viewed late at night after a libation or two) is either the most prescient man in technology today or completely off the wall. Or, perhaps, both. At any rate, he is the type of technology evangelist with whom almost everyone agrees either because they really believe or because they just want him to go away.

Haeger is convinced that CSMI is the way to go for installation programs, updates, service packs, maintenance releases and the like. But he doesn’t want to stop there.

Rather than lay out a roadmap for development, though, the rev. speaks in speculations:

* “How do users usually find out when their code is out of date, either by product version or applied patches?”

* “How does someone know when a product being installed will conflict with one they already have installed?”

* “How are installs (patches or new products) typically launched?”

Ted’s a firm believer in directory-enabled technologies, also.

If I were a wagering man, I’d be willing to put a bit on the premise that iManage will become the real management portal for all Novell services and applications and that eDirectory will be the repository for all the details. The rev. wants it that way, and he does have a knack for getting what he wants.