NetWare for Linux: neat party trick

NetWare for Linux: neat party trick

Linux is finally getting some of the respect it deserves - you can get a stable, commercial Linux version from Caldera or Red Hat that equips your network with Web, FTP, e-mail, DNS, network file sharing, and other services. And if you don't mind a lengthy download - your Linux server can run NetWare. However, unless your needs are limited, it might not be worth it.

Caldera's NetWare for Linux is a fascinating product that hosts a genuine Novell NetWare 4.10b server (with Novell Directory Services, or NDS) under Linux. Caldera's own OpenLinux is supported, of course, but Caldera also offers installation kits for Red Hat and other Linux distributions.

NetWare for Linux might be a good choice if you have a legacy vertical application, a DOS workstation, or a Macintosh in your office that needs a NetWare 4.x file/print server. With three users or fewer, it will serve you for free. Beyond that, it will cost you, and the price is not the only factor that dampens my enthusiasm for NetWare for Linux.

In addition to price, the capabilities for local administration are limited. More importantly, Novell's recent offerings - including the specs for the upcoming NetWare 5.0 - simply blow the doors off NetWare for Linux.

NetWare for Linux installed easily by Unix standards. The HTML documentation included with the product is very detailed.

Launches automatically

After the NetWare server components are installed, NetWare for Linux launches automatically following a reboot. At that point, your server is on the air. It makes connections only with clients running the outdated IPX protocol, and that's a serious drawback. Even Novell is pushing IP these days, and most shops don't want to be bothered with IPX.

To check compatibility, I installed Novell's latest Windows 95 client on a handful of test machines. Each was able to locate and connect to the NetWare for Linux server. Performance was good enough under light loads to be used as a file server. The NetWare 4.10 DOS and Windows 3.x administrative tools work well from Windows 95.

Unlike stand-alone NetWare, NetWare for Linux cannot really be managed locally from the Linux console.

A handful of Linux utilities report on the status of NetWare but can alter very few operating parameters. Beyond that, you have to manage everything remotely via DOS or Windows.

Although it is easy to appreciate NetWare for Linux as a technical feat, I question its market value. NetWare 4.10, the NetWare in NetWare for Linux, is a dead product. You won't have access to NetWare Loadable Modules, Novell fixes, or third-party NetWare device drivers.

What's more, you are stuck with IPX. Pricing is a mixed bag. NetWare for Linux is less expensive than even NetWare 3.2, and NetWare for Linux includes NDS. However, if you're a NetWare shop, Novell's upgrade pricing lets you migrate existing NetWare user licences to IntranetWare or NetWare 5 for about the same cost as NetWare for Linux.

NetWare for Linux is definitely a technical feather in Caldera's cap, but it is limited.

The Bottom Line

NetWare for Linux

This Novell 4.10b server runs under Caldera, Red Hat, and other Linux distributions. It's fine if you need to free up a server or add file and print services to older apps, but it pales compared to recent NetWare releases. You can't manage NetWare installations from the Linux console.

Pros: Easy install; transparent compatibility with NetWare clients; Novell Directory Services supportCons: Seriously outclassed by Novell's current products; priced too high; limited local administrationPlatforms: Caldera, Red Hat, and other Linux 2.x distributions (with Caldera patches)Caldera (

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