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NetWare is dead, long live NetWare!

Aug 12, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Novell is keeping NetWare alive through improved utilities and services

Editor’s Note: You may have noticed that we changed the name of this newsletter from “Novell NetWare” to “Novell NetWare Tips.” It’s a small change, but we feel it helps describe the kind of information Dave Kearns passes along every week. Dave will continue to entertain and educate you with his reports from the NetWare networking world, and will continue to share with you his tips on getting the most from your NetWare installation. We hope you’ll continue to enjoy this newsletter. Thanks for reading!

Last April, Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone was quoted in a U.K. IT news site as saying: “There are two main platforms that will exist in five years’ time: Microsoft and Linux. There is a perception that [NetWare] is a legacy environment. Do [we] throw money and technology into that environment, or do [we] take the value and put it into others?” (See editorial link below.)

When I asked Stone, soon after that interview, if he was predicting the end of NetWare, he neither confirmed nor denied it, but said the quote was about eDirectory, not the operating system. Last week I asked him again, and this time he no longer denied that NetWare, the operating system, was due to go on life support.

It is important to draw a distinction between NetWare – the operating system kernel that powers servers – and “NetWare” the grab bag of utilities, services and applications that run on that OS kernel. The OS kernel itself would fit on a floppy disk (much as DOS would or the Linux kernel for that matter) whereas the ancillary products need multiple CD-ROMs to hold all their code and data.

When I previewed NetWare 6.5 for you this spring, you may remember there were a lot of words about the new features, utilities and services as well as about improvements to exiting features, utilities and services. Nothing was said about changes to the basic OS, because there really hasn’t been any – certainly not since the release of NetWare 6.0 and quite possibly not since the release of Version 5.1.

NetWare, the operating system, is as dead as OS/2. There are still people using OS/2, however, and there will still be people using the NetWare OS for quite some time to come. Heck, NetWare 4 started shipping 10 years ago, but there are  still people running NetWare 3.12!

At least for now, Novell won’t make the same mistake that another Boston-area networking company made. When Banyan (now ePresence) got out of the OS business, it simply abandoned Vines – not only was it no longer sold, it was no longer supported. Novell has a different plan.

To get an idea of that plan, just look at another Novell product – ManageWise. Version 2.7 was released late 1999. There has not been, nor will there be, any further developments of the product. Yet it’s still on the price lists, it’s still supported by Novell’s technical services (unlike, say, NetWare 3.2), and patches may still be released (the latest was in September last year). A similar fate should await NetWare 6.5.

Going forward, “NetWare” will, at least for the time being, refer to the bundle of services, utilities and applications Novell provides for networking. These currently run on the “NetWare kernel” platform, and should all run on a Linux platform by early 2004 at the latest. Future services and versions of current services will run on the Linux kernel and may (or may not) be ported to NetWare. 

The operating system I’ve known for 20 years has gone beyond “mature” to the stage where more and more “life support devices” will have to be plugged into it in order to keep it running. That’s sad. NetWare was, by all objective standards, the best OS to run a server and network services. Linux has a long way to go to reach the stability and scalability of the NetWare OS. Life, and the network, goes on, however, and we’ll all have to learn how to best deal with it.

Surprising to some of you, “NetWare on Linux” isn’t Novell’s first attempt to port NetWare services to other platforms. Next time we’ll look at how successful that was.