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Novell sets technology direction

Novell introduces new technologies at BrainShare '97 that it hopes will propel it past troubled waters.

Novell (NOVL) introduced new technologies at BrainShare '97 today that set the direction of the struggling network operating system software company for the next year.

As previously reported by CNET, Novell will release a set of network access technologies called border services, which include proxy caching, virtual private networking (VPN), and security capabilities for managing access to corporate networks. Novell is making an early access release of the technologies available to conference attendees.

The company will also augment its print services and Java-based application development enhancements. It will also eventually release a new version of IntranetWare, code-named Moab, that will contain an enhanced kernel for multiprocessing capabilities.

Novell officials have beat the drum for network services, such as border services, running on top of its directory for some time. Customers are now looking at tools, like border services, to tie their emerging intranet networks to the outside world. "I think customers are looking for it," said Jamie Lewis, president of the Burton Group consultancy. "Whether they're looking to Novell to do it is another question."

Novell hopes to leverage its directory as a central administrative tool that can offer access priviledges to users at the border or "edge" of the network where private layouts meet the public Internet. "Doing this in a directory-enabled way is a very powerful thing," Lewis said.

Novell may find some competition on the border services space, however. "I think there are other people thinking along similar lines, like Cisco," Lewis continued. "Clearly, Cisco wants to own that connection" at the edge of the network.

"One of the areas they have not marketed well is creating a value proposition for the directory in their sales channel," he said.

Today's announcements included the following:

  • Border services, which Novell executives believe anyone interested in extending intranet functionality to the outside world via an "extranet" will find useful. The proxy caching capabilities allow frequently used Web sites to be stored locally; VPN capabilities can set up a secure connection between intranets for commerce; and security capabilities can monitor all network access via integration with Novell's Directory Services (NDS).

    Border services technologies are scheduled to be released by September as a stand-alone product. A name for the tool set has yet to be determined. "We are the most logical company to move into the network services area," said Denise Gibson, senior vice president of Internet Products at Novell.

  • Novell Distributed Print Services (NDPS), the next version of Novell's popular print services that will allow administrators to manage printers and improve print job control. Developed in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard and Xerox, the new architecture enhances the management capabilities of the services, allowing managers to download print drivers to workstations, for instance. The new capabilities are also integrated into NDS.

  • IntranetWare Java Application Environment, tools that update the Java Virtual Machine, just-in-time compiler, and Java class libraries for developers.

  • Moab, the next major release of IntranetWare that will feature IPX to TCP/IP translation capabilities through a native implementation, memory protection, and a new multiprocessing capability in the kernel of the operating system. The new version will be released as an alpha version to all attendees this week.

    What has become clear during this BrainShare is that an ambitious rool out schedule for IntranetWare that was articulated last fall has evolved into one major release, Moab. That release will combine many of the items expressed in two follow-on versions of the operating system expected in the aftermath of the repackaged NetWare into IntranetWare announcement.

    Novell officials hope the Moab release dispels once and for all the notion that IntranetWare is not a good platform to write applications for. "Moab is going to help and focus a little more as a platform for applications and the development of applications," said Coleman Barney, senior director of marketing for Novell's IntranetWare Products group.

    Also being demonstrated at the conference is the Wolf Mountain set of technologies that include clustering software for server systems, 64-bit support intended for Intel's Merced microprocessor (due by 1999), and a new advanced file system.

    The company also announced support for Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS) in NDS, due for release by midyear for free. RADIUS is a protocol that facilitates secure connections between remote users and the Internet and internal networks. The services will run on IntranetWare, Microsoft's Windows NT, Sun Microsystems' Solaris, HP UX, and the Santa Cruz Operation's UnixWare operating systems.