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Still confused over NetWare and Linux?

May 15, 20034 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

* Your thoughts on Novell's Linux plans

Lots and lots of e-mails back and forth between you, dear reader, and this somewhat overly pessimistic scribe, about NetWare 7 and the whole Linux mumbo-jumbo. Today I’d like to quote, and answer, some of your points and concerns and then (hopefully) we can let the topic go dormant for a while.

As you’ll remember, Novell CEO announced at BrainShare that “NetWare 7” would be released as both a traditional NetWare kernel as well as a Linux-based set of services (see: Without more detail, much speculation ensued. But the general consensus is that there will be two “flavors” of NetWare 7.

My interpretation of the announcement was that traditional NetWare, as we know it, would disappear in favor of a group of services running on Linux. I thought this was a bad idea and I haven’t changed my mind – but I’m willing to listen to other opinions. Here’s what some of you had to say:

“As you point out, a number of Novell products already run on Linux…eDirectory, Account Manager, NetMail, ZENworks for Servers, etc., so it should not be mission impossible to get NCP [NetWare Core Protocol], file and print there too.”

NCP is the presentation layer routine used by a NetWare server in response to client requests (open a file, read a file, start a process, end a process, etc.). While you could create a piece of middleware to translate NCP calls to Linux core calls, you’d end up with a slower, more error prone system. Linux, I shouldn’t have to point out, also has its own file and print systems.

“A Linux distribution will be good complement to NetWare as a robust application platform for Novell.”

I couldn’t agree more. So go ahead and add a Linux host to your NetWare network. Be sure and use eDirectory for authentication while you’re at it. You could even add a Linux desktop or two – with the beta Linux client for NetWare as well as the Linux client for GroupWise. That way you get the best of everything.

“I just don’t see what the big deal is with the new Linux distribution that’s coming. If it’s going to be just as fast, stable, and if it will run all my Novell apps – what’s the worry?”

Well, there’s the rub. Linux isn’t as fast or as stable as NetWare. When you add brand new services, utilities and applications it’ll be even less stable, less scalable and less fast. That’s not the direction I’d want to go.

NetWare is a lean, efficient multithreaded network operating system. Linux is a relatively non-scalable, relatively unthreaded, application platform. By all means get them working together, a well-designed network needs both.

For dinner the other night, I had a cup of minestrone soup, a small Caesar salad, veal parmigian with spaghetti in a pomodoro sauce and tiramisu for dessert. An excellent meal. But if you tried to put it all in one pot and make an appetizing dish out of it, you’d end up with something that no one would eat. That’s what I think will happen when you try to amalgamate NetWare and Linux. As one reader reminded me:

“The thing which really scares me is that this is absolutely the same as what happened to Banyan, isn’t it? No one would buy their NOS so they ended up trying to sell their StreetTalk product as a directory service which ran on multiple environments. My take on that story is that Banyan were eventually seen by the market as having been passed by.”

Now let’s sit back and await developments. Oh, and don’t neglect NetWare 6.5.