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Novell readies revamped NetWare

The company looks to regain ground lost to Microsoft by releasing a new version of its OS with features that simplify network administration and streamline network access.

Networking software company Novell has filled in the picture of its revamped NetWare, painting the operating system as an alternative to Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Server 2003.

By midyear, Novell said, it will ship NetWare 6.5, code-named Nakoma, a new release of the software with features that simplify network administration and streamline network access. The company is also targeting improved storage administration and better interoperability with Web services in the new version, the company said this week.

After leading the market for network operating systems during the 1980s and early 1990s, Novell lost ground to Microsoft and its Windows operating system. Windows accounted for 49 percent of new server operating-system licenses shipped in 2001, up from 42 percent a year earlier. Meanwhile, NetWare slipped three points to 12 percent in the same time period, according to a survey by market researcher IDC.

Now Novell is counting on a revamped product strategy to help retain existing customers and win new ones.

In addition to competing with Microsoft, which is set to ship its oft-delayed Windows Server 2003 in April, Novell also contends with Unix vendors such as Sun Microsystems and Linux supporters such as IBM.

NetWare 6.5 introduces a "virtual office" feature that is designed to let workers log in from any Internet-ready PC and get access to e-mail systems, network files or other business applications. Added collaboration capabilities should allow workers to set up shared folders on the network, without the help of a network administrator.

For the network administrator--Novell's traditional customer base--the company has added tools to better manage storage devices and to cut bandwidth costs for remote offices.

NetWare 6.5 will have a visual application for consolidating data and files onto fewer storage devices, particularly onto storage area networks, according to Novell executives. The same tool can be used to establish backup versions of corporate data in case of disaster.

For companies looking to reduce the number of dedicated network connections to remote branch offices, Novell has built a server that establishes a cache, or replica, of files used by branch office workers. With a local cache server, workers can still access networked files. But companies can replace more expensive leased network lines with the Internet, for communication with the central office.

The Nakoma release incorporates software from Novell's purchase of application server company Silverstream last year. The addition of Java and Web services software from Silverstream into NetWare should allow corporate developers and administrators to better integrate NetWare with other operating systems and applications, company executives said.

Novell will also extend its embrace of open-source programs. With NetWare 6.5, the company has further tied the Apache and Tomcat Web servers, and the MySQL database into Novell's network management scheme.