• United States

Forming a NetWare exit strategy

Aug 28, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

* You might not need one. Then again, you might

Novell says NetWare file servers power more than 4 million networks worldwide – many in smaller businesses that count on NetWare’s reliability to compensate for limited IT support. But as NetWare market share shrinks – squeezed by Microsoft from above and Linux from below – users are getting nervous.

As I see it, NetWare shops have three options:

1) Continue with NetWare, and consider upgrading to NetWare 6.5.

2) Wait at least 18 months for NetWare 7.0.

3) Look beyond.

Recent events are sure to influence your choice. In April, Novell stated at its annual BrainShare technical conference that NetWare 7.0 will have the option to run NetWare services on top of the Linux kernel. This move is probably an attempt to suck up to the Linux community, as Novell has already ported its eDirectory and iFolder to Linux. Even so, many attendees heard “NetWare 7.0 will be the cool one, so why buy NetWare 6.5?”

The second marketing mistake came earlier this month. At the LinuxWorld conference, a Novell exec said all future development efforts would focus on Linux, and NetWare would be maintained but not improved. Retractions came immediately, but the statement sounds like leaked plans and the retraction like corporate bull. My take? While not a Novell death knell, it’s not good.

These signs give plenty of warning that it’s time to at least start preparing for change. To start, examine and document exactly what tasks your network performs and whether your users really need them.

Make a list, and track:

 * How many people use each printer?

 * How much server storage space does each consume?

 * How many people use the Internet?

 * How many connect to the company network from outside?

 * How many have e-mail accounts? How active are they?

 * Which applications does each user need?

 * Where are those applications stored? (NetWare server or locally)

 * How strict is your internal network security?

 * Are all data files stored on the file server?

 * What data back-up method are you using?

 * How many sections of your server storage are locked from casual users?

 * Do you use GroupWise? Exclusively, or in combination with another e-mail application?

With your documentation complete, you’ll find some configurations need updating, and you might be able to eliminate a few applications and services, trimming costs. But you’ll also see the areas in which NetWare remains critical to your users. With this knowledge you can plan around NetWare (if necessary) by looking at items such as replacing a NetWare server with a printer attached with a print server. Network-attached storage devices might support some or all of your users, especially since most NAS units are built to network Windows-based clients automatically.

Even if you change nothing, having the information necessary to upgrade or replace your network devices will give you peace of mind. It’ll also tune you in to the equipment you need so maybe you can catch some on sale when available.

In terms of Novell applications, versions of GroupWise that will run on various Linux platforms aren’t expected until mid-2004. But by then, GroupWise users wanting to upgrade might need to use NetWare on a Linux server, run just GroupWise on a Linux server, or give in and move to Microsoft Exchange. But Windows or Linux operating systems can host iFolder, the ZENworks desktop management tool, and eDirectory, so users of these are already prepared.

Novell has a long history of making marketing blunders, and these might just blow over. But if real changes are in the works, understanding your network and your users’ needs will help you better withstand change. So document your network, and keep your fingers crossed. And watch this space for more options.