NetWare 6.5 points Novell directly toward Linux.Even though all of\u00a0Novell's\u00a0network services will not be ported to Linux until late this year, in our testing of the just-released NetWare 6.5, we found that Novell's preliminary open source add-ons are well integrated, complemented by Novell's mature eDirectory services and managed comprehensively by NetWare iManager 2.0. A peek at Virtual Office How we did it Archive of Network World reviews Subscribe to the Product Review newsletterNetWare 6.5 is driven heavily by Web interfaces, its improved Virtual Office application (see related story), and ties between eDirectory and the open source pieces - Apache, MySQL, and Perl\/PHP (AMP) - that ship with it. Also included in the NetWare 6.5 development platforms are TomCat, Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition, Novell's Extend application server platform (from Novell's acquisition of SilverStream) and its DirXML (parser and API set). These pieces comprise Novell's efforts to make NetWare a better environment for building and running Web-based\u00a0applications.We installed NetWare 6.5 with various options on a number of servers, ranging from a Gateway 1U to Compaq DL360 and DL580 multi-CPU servers (see\u00a0How we did it). The installation options mime functionality found in most server platforms, such as\u00a0DNS,\u00a0Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol\u00a0and certificate management.Novell's hardware discovery processes worked well across all platforms tested. However, NetWare doesn't try to make any guesses as to the lab's network address infrastructure, unlike Windows 2003 and a number of Linux versions, both of which occasionally misidentified network routers, and other services.Instead of managing each device (hard disk, tape drive, CD\/DVD and so on) separately, NetWare can aggregate\u00a0storage\u00a0devices and areas into objects called pools. We created both server-localized (local hard disk) pools, but also pools of storage across the lab's storage-area network (SAN) using various file systems and disk\/volume combinations. Although NetWare uses its own filing system for its system storage area, it can mount a variety of filing systems, including the Common Internet File System that we created in the SAN. Apple File System support is also available, and we found no difficulty either deploying or accessing any of the filing systems tested.SecurityNetWare 6.5 doesn't provide a firewall or\u00a0IP Security\u00a0VPN services, but\u00a0network address translation\u00a0and port blocking are provided. From a value standpoint, this compares less favorably to XServe OS\/X and Linux, which contain a slightly stronger firewall and a variety of VPN methods, and somewhat favorably with Win 2003, which contains nominal firewalling and comparatively strong VPN services.Client logon capability can use many methods from simple password to complex password to certificate-based in combination with biometrics\/SmartCard authentication techniques. We used the X.509 certificates with little setup time, but found the process adds about 10 seconds to any logon.User and group\u00a0security\u00a0is strong in NetWare 6.5 because of the highly articulate controls within iManager 2.0, a Web-based central console for almost all NetWare services. While eDirectory ties resources in ways that can establish and authenticate identity, the iManager aggregates the functionality of users, groups, devices and directory contexts well.Administrative control through iManager was occasionally sluggish, but it was comprehensive and better laid out than other\u00a0management\u00a0applications.Our only criticism of iManager was its brief, poorly linked help system. And, alternative browsers (Opera and older Netscape) aren't supported by the DirXML-driven apps and servlets used by iManager, thus requiring Internet Explorer or later versions of Netscape.The open source twistBy adding AMP, Novell has linked its foundation of mature eDirectory services to one of the most popular open source Web applications engines. This combination has a large number of followers in the open source community, and we found that maintenance of the AMP applications (such as recompiling them) is no more difficult than it is on Linux or Berkeley Software Distribution. We ported several scripts from Linux\/Apache and ran them with no difficulty after adjusting the scripts for the differences in file locations. There's even a server X console to make Unix\/Linux\/BSD programmers and administrators feel at home.The AMP combo, often found on Linux applications servers where it's known as LAMP, has huge popularity with Web and applications developers and a large base of readily available open source code. We were disappointed to find some beta products in the mix, even though the products were at the current release levels. NetWare 6.5 OVERALL RATING 4.13 \u00a0\u00a0Company: Novell Cost: Starts at $995 for a new, five-user license. Pros: Offers unified services control; interesting Web applications offered with Virtual Office; open source services included. Cons: Slower Web performance showing; can require significant set up time for all features. Installation\/integration 25%\u00a0 4.5 \u00a0Performance 25%\u00a0 3.5 Management 25%\u00a0 4.5 Security 25%\u00a0 4 TOTAL SCORE 4.13 \u00a0Scoring Key: 5: Exceptional; 4: Very good; 3: Average; 2: Below average; 1: Consistently subpar PerformanceWe subjected NetWare 6.5 to the WebAvalanche test environment used to test Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SuSE\/UnitedLinux\u00a0\u00a0(read review)\u00a0and Win 2003 (read review)\u00a0earlier this year. NetWare scored well in terms of transactions, but not in Web IP performance.NetWare 6.5 and Apache 2.02 bettered Win 2003 in number of transactions per second. But in maximum number of TCP open connections and maximum number of sustained Web connections, NetWare 6.5 scored consistently lower than its competitors.NetWare 6.5 is a stepping stone to NetWare on Linux. While the grafted open source applications might not be quite as speedy as we'd like, the combination is powerful. In some ways, the basic infrastructure to NetWare hasn't changed in 20 years, but the direction toward NetWare as an open source platform is happening quickly and, in our opinion, successfully.