On Monday, Novell made its NetWare 5.1 beta publicly available. Novell anticipates that the beta will ship in the first quarter of 2000. Before NetWare 5.1 can ship, it must pass several exit criteria, which include a minimum number of functioning test sites and internal use. Novell Product Manager Phil Karren told us that Novell believes that its emphasis on making sure that the company has several functioning beta deployments is a major reason for NetWare’s success in the field. Novell preceded the NetWare 5 release with about half a million beta copies.
Novell boasts that NetWare currently has more than 80 million seats, which is the largest network operating system (NOS) install base worldwide. With these numbers, Microsoft won't be able to catch up (if it can catch up) to Novell until well into next year, at the earliest.
NetWare 5.1 includes many design goals. According to a Novell spokesperson, version 5.1 will “give \[the user\] the more mature version, with a year of market hardening.” Novell is also hoping that NetWare 5.1’s release will bring more users over from NetWare 4. NetWare 5 is about a year old, and about 10 to 12 percent of NetWare users have converted to version 5, according to Brad Dew, product marketing manager for NetWare 5, and Michael Bryant, director of product marketing for Novell’s Advanced Services Marketing. So Novell sees this upgrade as strategic, both in moving its installed base into its new OS and in fending off the challenges that Windows 2000 (Win2K) offers.
Dew explained that the main focuses in NetWare 5.1 are to increase manageability (especially with one-button network status checking), increase network resource capability, and add significant Web-application deployment capability. Karren added, “\[NetWare 5.1\] adds new functionality for Web-based applications. Honestly, \[for earlier versions\] we always knew that we weren’t what we wanted to be in this area. With NetWare 5.1, an application can run on the Web; all you need is a browser.”
NetWare 5.1 also adds a Web-based management portal that administrators can access from any browser. One touch of a button can display the status of all system servers and another click of the mouse can let an administrator diagnose and fix the server, all from within the browser environment.
Novell believes that this new version of NetWare can potentially access network resources three times faster than previous versions—the company is currently checking this figure with third-party assistance. Along with NetWare 5.1, Novell plans to bundle a starter kit for ZenWorks, Novell’s remote workstation management utility, and a five-user version of Oracle 8i.
Novell is pushing the image that NetWare 5.1, as with all NetWare products, will feature extensive compatibility with third-party products, especially Microsoft products. For example, Novell is emphasizing NetWare 5.1’s Office 2000 compatibility. Company representatives kept repeating the slogan “We make networks work better—if you have a lot of Microsoft stuff, it will work better.”
The company's Novell Directory Services (NDS), which is also available in a Windows NT version, is the reigning directory champ; Microsoft’s much-touted Active Directory (AD), the jewel in the Windows 2000 (Win2K) crown, is the challenger. Novell has about a 5-year start in the directory-services world; the coming battle for directory champ will be interesting. The delay in shipping Win2K has been a boon to Novell and has provided the company with breathing space to solidify and extend its product line. NDS is reputed to be rock solid, and Novell has established that NDS will scale into the billions of entries.
Features new to NetWare 5.1 will include
• IBM WebSphere 3.0, Standard Edition—IBM WebSphere for NetWare is a Java-based application environment that combines the worlds of Web servers, database, servlets, and other Java standards to create a platform for creating and managing enterprise-class Web applications.
• NetWare Enterprise Web Server 3.6—NetWare Enterprise Web Server is an open-standards, enterprise-strength Web server that provides customers with built-in Web publishing and Web development capabilities.
• Office 2000 Compatibility—NetWare 5.1 supports the WebDAV protocol and Office2000 Web folders on NetWare file systems, allowing collaborative editing and Web publishing on the NetWare OS.
• NetWare FTP Server
• NetWare Web Search Server
• NetWare News Server
• NetWare Multimedia Server
• NDS 8
• NetWare Management Portal—The NetWare Management portal lets administrators manage Novell Server versions 4x and 5x through a Web browser on a client workstation.
• Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) 2.0