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Getting to know Netware and Zenworks

When I started my new job this year, I walked into an environment that was radically different from my previous job. There, I was running Windows Server 2003 along with Exchange 2003, which was a platform that ran very well for about 350 users. So to come into a place still running Novell Netware was a big system shock for myself. Suddenly all the skills I had, things I knew and tricks I could do became next to impossible. The computers were in about 11 different workgroups, static IP’s were being used and I can’t even remember what all else. With my colleague, we’ve since cleaned up much of the mess but some things still just don’t work.

The last time I worked with Netware was back in 2003 when I was at high school. Back then I loved the platform and how well it ran. Netware 4.11 and Windows 98 worked well together. However, as you can see, that was already ancient technology back then. With the rise of Windows XP, Microsoft well and truly killed off Netware due to the way XP worked. Multiple users, individual profiles and others made things very different from 98. After I finished high school, I got into Microsoft products and learnt how much more advanced that platform really was.

Getting back on track, it took me a long time to get back into using Netware. While this is version 6.5 running on top of Open Enterprise Server, a lot of things still work the same, including using NWADMIN for some tasks. To my horror, the school is still running Pegasus Mail and the Mercury mail server. Unfortunately this system is severely out of date, and the school gets so much mail that we are actually breaking Pegasus by pushing it beyond what it was designed for.

As I explored Netware with my colleague, I began to develop a respect again for the platform. Combined with Novell’s Zenworks product, you are able to do bring a network very close to the level that Windows 2003 offers for example. The downside is that you have to work with about 4 different management tools, including some written in Java which not only look outdated, perform as badly slow as they look.

Previously the servers would crash what seemed like every 3 days, but since then we have managed to pull it up to just under 43 days for the main server, and about 2 weeks for the server that does proxy services. However, on that server the now defunct BorderManager isn’t running too well due to a massive 3rd party defunt Surf Control web filtering database. On the main server, a module that controls the shared controlled HP printers has caused a lot of the problems, which is still something we want to possibly replace to improve uptime and stability.

Zenworks has proven interesting to play with. I think the Microsoft equivalent would be Systems Management Server 2003 or Configuration Manager 2007. I’m not sure if they can put icons on the desktop, start menu or so on though, which is one small but useful feature of Zenworks. The inventory part is something I’m looking into, as I want to be able to pull information like that out for other purposes.

Zenworks also runs with Windows servers, so I’m downloading it to test how it would work in a full Microsoft platform, see how it works with Active Directory and so on. Should be interesting stuff.

In closing, if you are still running Netware, you really need to look at migrating if humanly possible. Support for it is becoming very hard to find and the platform itself is dead according to Novell. OES is a stop gap measure really, as sooner or later everything will run under SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, with no need for anything strictly Netware related. Will be sad in a way to see Netware go, but that is how the market changes and evolves.

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