Networking / Beginners

Evaluating NOSs

This section continues the introductory material on the subject. If you're building a network with a sizable chunk of centralized services, one of the following client/server NOSs is for you. Whereas peer-to-peer networks are similar to a cooperative group of people with diverse functions but no single leader, a client/server network is similar to a hierarchy-the server is the leader, the one with all the knowledge and the resources.

The following sections provide more details of NOSs, which are used in client/server networks. As we describe each of them, keep in mind that you and your design team must make decision about which one will be installed in your network...assuming you opt for a client/server environment. We'll look at the following:

  • Novell NetWare
  • Microsoft Windows Server
  • Linux/UNIX

Novell NetWare

You and your team will face a problem during your assessment of Novell's NOS. It's a powerful software platform, but its market share is declining. How you react to this reality must be based on your team's view of NetWare and your company's view of Novell. Our focus here is on the technical aspects of the situation. First, here's a bit of history.

In the early days of PC internetworking, Ray Noorda's Novell invented NetWare. It came as a balm to early PC-networking system administrators who were used to dealing with the innumerable networking schemes that appeared in the early to mid- 1980s. NetWare provided reliable, secure, and relatively simple networking. In the early years, the business world snapped up as many copies as Novell could turn out.

Over the years, NetWare matured. Its focus broadened beyond the local LAN into WAN configurations. With the advent of NetWare 5 and NetWare Directory Services (NDS), Novell had a product that enabled a global network to provide its users with the same resources, no matter where on the network those users logged in.

But in 1994 and 1995, two things happened that made Novell stumble. The first was the introduction of Microsoft's Windows NT, which Novell failed to view as serious competition. Microsoft's aggressive marketing and the ease of use of Windows NT quickly made inroads into Novell's market share.

Novell's second slip was in failing to realize that the rise in public consciousness of the Internet fundamentally changed the playing field for NOS manufacturers. Novell had used its Internetwork Packet Exchange (IPX) protocol for close to 15 years; it saw no reason to change.

Novell has made up for a number of earlier missteps in relation to NetWare. The NOS now embraces Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) as its default network protocol. A recent version of Novell's NOS, NetWare 6.5, also integrates several open source services from the Linux platform, including Apache Web Server, which is one of the most popular web server platforms in use.

Administrative tools for managing NetWare were also rather meager in earlier versions of NetWare. However, NetWare 6.5 provides many new tools, including the Net- Ware Remote Manager, which you can use to manage network volumes and monitor server settings. Remote Manager is accessed using a web browser, which makes it easy for an administrator to open it from any workstation on the network.

In 2003, Novell announced Open Enterprise Server (OES) and released it in March 2005. OES consists of a set of applications (such as the eDirectory) that can run over a Linux or a NetWare platform. Some network experts state Novell is shifting away from NetWare and toward Linux. The company has assured its customers that it will support whatever NOS they want.

NetWare might well be appropriate for your company's network. It's fast, efficient, and easy to install and configure. The Novell Directory Service hierarchy for network objects (such as users and groups) has been upgraded to the Novell eDirectory to provide an easy-to-use hierarchical system for tracking servers and other objects on the network. NetWare can also accommodate situations in which your network spans multiple LANs (across WANs). In addition, it provides the scalability expected from a well-performing NOS platform.

With recent changes to NetWare's software and changes in NetWare licensing structure, it's certainly worth your while to take a serious look at NetWare when you're working through the process of determining the best NOS for your network.

Select the NOS That Makes the Most Sense for Your Network

These sections on specific NOSs are not intended as recommendations, but rather should be considered starting points as you research the different platforms available. Cost, scalability, and ease of administration are just a few of the factors that should be part of your selection process.

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