Managing mixed NetWare and Windows NT networks has never been easier with Novell's NDS for NT 2.0, based on Novell Directory Services (NDS). Although other products offer a number of approaches for consolidated management, such as directory synchronisation, only NDS for NT gives administrators one network directory to manage. And with the new features I've seen in this beta release, Novell is getting closer to a single set of management tools. But it's not quite there yet.
NDS for NT 2.0 builds on the prior version in three key areas: share management, password synchronisation, and an added capability to host NDS replicas on NT-based servers. However, this release does not yet bring the NDS system to the NT Server platform: this would allow NT-only sites to benefit from the product without having to deploy a NetWare-based NDS server.
Even in its present state, though, NDS for NT has considerable potential for NT-only shops because it can be used to overcome typical NT limitations, such as domain consolidation or moving users from one domain to another. When you consider this, deploying one or two NetWare servers in an otherwise NT-only shop isn't a bad option.
One of the key advances in NDS for NT 2.0 is that it adds support for managing Windows NT file shares (shared network volumes) from Novell's NWAdmin tool. I had to install this NWAdmin-based snap-in separately after the primary product install. The tool includes a File and Folder Sharing Wizard, which provides a quick interface for adding shares on a remote server.
This wizard offers basic capabilities. If you need more, the product now lets you quickly launch NT's key management tools, such as Server Manager, User Manager, and Event Viewer, directly from NWAdmin's domain object interface. Unfortunately, NWAdmin still relies on NT-specific tools, rather than on an embedded management interface, so this capability is available only on NT management stations.
Another useful feature in this version is forced password synchronisation. As its name implies, this option allowed me to maintain synchronised passwords for users on both NetWare and NT Server-based account log-ins. For example, when users change their passwords for NetWare, then NDS for NT automatically forces a password change for each user's Windows NT domain accounts as well.
Finally, NDS for NT 2.0 now allows administrators to host read-only NDS replicas on Windows NT-based servers. This feature is a big winner, because it allows you to deploy and operate the product without the worry of service interruptions if for some reason you are unable to access your NetWare-based servers. This makes the product a more credible solution for deploying over WAN links.
Even though the product hasn't quite reached the peak of its potential, NDS for NT is still the best way to consolidate management of mixed NetWare and Windows NT environments. The product still needs a few tweaks prior to shipment, but the enhancements in the 2.0 release will bring administrators closer to the ideal of using a single system to manage a mixed environment.
The Bottom Line
NDS for NT 2.0, beta
Novell's consolidated directory management product adds key improvements, reducing management overhead for mixed NetWare and Windows NT shops.
Pros: Adds NT share management, integrated access to NT management tools; password synchronisation between Novell Directory Services (NDS) and NT domains; can store NDS replicas on NT Domain Controllers.
Cons: Doesn't yet bring full NDS database services to NT, requiring NT-only shops to deploy one NDS server.
Platforms: Windows NT Server 3.51 and 4.0; one NetWare 4.x server (or other platform running NDS).
Price: Not announced. Shipping this month.
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