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Novell gets user-centric

Feb 20, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Ifolder enhancements in NetWare 6.5

My favorite part of NetWare 6, at least the one that made the biggest impression on me, was iFolder. Evidently, a lot of you felt the same way and so Novell spun off it off as iFolder Professional.

But this actually caused some weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth as NetWare managers saw the increased functionality available in iFolder Professional 2.0, compared to the version that came with the NOS, and wanted it for their network – but weren’t willing to pay extra to get it. Novell promised that there would be improved iFolder functionality in the next version of NetWare, and it is keeping to that promise.

All of the functionality of iFolder Professional 2.0 will ship “in the box” with NetWare 6.5. That means continuous synchronization of a user’s files between and among the various computing platforms they use, with the added ability to access those files from any Web browser and from many PDAs. 

You already have that functionality in NetWare 6.0, though. What’s new is the ability to scale to millions of users through what amounts to “clustered” iFolder servers all acting in concert. There’s also better administrative features, allowing passphrase recovery (something admins started asking for the second day users had access). The 2.0 version also allows much greater flexibility in placing the iFolder folders as well as the server-side storage.

There’s no question that iFolder appeals to the user rather than the administrator – but admins are users too. For many years we’ve complained to Microsoft that its operating systems and applications were too user-centric without any real benefit for the network manager. The flip side of that, of course, was that NetWare was really designed for the network manager and not a lot of attention was placed on the user’s experience. That’s changing, and that’s good.

Choosing an NOS used to be the domain of the network manager and the users took whatever you gave them. That’s not so true any more. Users are a lot more network-savvy than they use to be. And the people who sign the checks and approve the purchase orders are all users, and generally not admins.

IFolder was Novell’s first successful foray into user-centric network services, at least the first wildly successful foray. Novell intends to build on that with the other “Virtual Office” tools and technologies in NetWare 6.5 and some of those look pretty exciting. Next issue, we’ll examine one, which Novell calls “Virtual Groups.”