Early adopters of Novell's Nterprise Linux Services say the package lets them consolidate server operating systems and offers a smooth migration path to Linux from NetWare servers.
NNLS was the first product that launched Novell full-bore into Linux. Released in December 2003, the package contains Novell's Virtual Office collaboration tool; its iFolder file management system; iPrint, which lets users print from any location; its Internet messaging package NetMail; its Web-based iManager package; Novell Resource Management, a tool for automated software management; and Novell's eDirectory. NNLS works on Red Hat or SuSE Linux.
In March, Novell announced that its next operating system - Open Enterprise Server (OES) - would incorporate NetWare and Linux kernels, letting users deploy applications on whatever platform they want. In OES, NetWare services will run on both kernels - those services include file services, clustering, print, identity, administrative, Web, patch management, health monitoring and client integration. Novell says OES will be available by year-end.
To familiarize themselves with Novell services on Linux, many users have tested the waters with NNLS, which contains components of OES. The operating system will run initially on 32-bit extension technology from Intel and 64-bit versions of SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, which Novell acquired last year.
Anthony Hill, CTO for Golden Gate University in San Francisco, and Keith Rajecki, infrastructure manager at the university, have deployed NNLS and plan on upgrading to OES when it is released.
There is a fundamental reason we started looking at NNLS - we are pursuing an IT strategy based around consolidation," Hill says. "We chose Linux as the [operating system] to consolidate database applications and Web servers. When Novell announced its Linux strategy it became a very obvious way for us to go and consolidate our networking environments around Linux."
Hill, who has 14 NetWare servers and 1,000 users, considered migrating his servers from NetWare to Windows, but he saw problems with that approach.
"Had we gone with Windows, we wouldn't have achieved any economies of scale through consolidation, and it meant bringing in some competing architectures such as messaging and directory services," says Hill, who uses Novell's GroupWise, eDirectory and ZENworks management package.
Staying with NetWare wasn't a good choice for Hill either.
"Had we stayed on NetWare, we could have stayed with the Novell tools, but we wouldn't have enjoyed any economies of scale because NetWare requires dedicated staff and skill sets, and there's a relatively small number of software vendors supporting [the operating systems]," Hill says.
Hill chose to pin Golden Gate's network on Novell's OES instead.
"For us, the ability to run Novell's messaging and management tools, and consolidate that all around Linux allows us to achieve the maximum economy of scale and consolidate the enterprise from one end to the other," he says.
"Novell's strategy of providing a NetWare and Linux kernel has allowed us a smoother migration strategy," Hill says. He and Rajecki are migrating their network to NetWare 6.5 first because NetWare access controls won't be available until NNLS 2.0 is released at the beginning of next year.
"We did that only because we didn't want to have to migrate file system structures - in Linux you lose a lot of the security features that are available in NetWare, such as access controls," Rajecki says.
When NNLS 2.0 is released, "the Novell file system will be ported onto the Linux platform. Then, we are looking at taking our 14 servers from NetWare to Linux," he says.
Like Hill, James Taylor cites the decline in skilled NetWare administrators as part of his desire to migrate to Linux. Taylor, network/infrastructure manager for SPX Valves and Controls in Houston, has 50 NetWare servers in 13 international locations.
"We will move all NetWare services to Linux," Taylor says. "There is no reason for us to stay on the NetWare kernel. I'm looking at NNLS to provide a single infrastructure and get rid of all those Microsoft and Novell installations, and go Linux across the board for file and print sharing and for Novell services."
Taylor, who has been testing NNLS 1.0 for three months, says he hopes to also consolidate his 13 locations around one operating system. However, he'll wait until Novell releases OES for full deployment.
"I probably will wait until OES comes out because I don't think Novell is going to provide a seamless integration from NNLS to OES," Taylor says. "If Novell comes out with another version of NNLS that supports access controls, we would deploy it in production environments."
Danny Wall, network engineer for Health First in Rockledge, Fla., says OES will wean his organization of its dependence on Windows. Wall has three dozen NetWare servers.
"In our environment we have 350 to 400 applications," Wall says. "It's insane. Too many of them are Microsoft-based."
"When you look at the three major platforms - NetWare, Windows and Linux - there's a level of security, usability and customization," Wall says. "NetWare is extremely secure and stable; however, it's not easily customized. Windows is customizable, but it's not secure and stable. Linux bridges that gap, and you have customization."
To reduce dependence on Windows, Wall has installed three NNLS servers.
One of Wall's servers runs Novell's Virtual Office and eDirectory; the second is an iPrint server, and he'll use the third one for Novell's package management features. NNLS 1.0 includes the Linux Application (Red Hat Package Manager) distribution via the Ximian Red Carpet system, which it acquired in August 2003.
But Wall can't completely migrate to Windows because some users' applications still require Windows.
"Our finance department uses PeopleSoft, for example, which relies on [Microsoft] Excel," Wall says. "When PeopleSoft starts supporting a standards-based browser, it's possible that will open it up to Linux."
As for whether users will deploy Linux on their users' desktops - these IT managers say no.
"Our desktops will stay Microsoft," Taylor says. "We have Lotus Notes, and IBM isn't coming out with a Linux client. We have J.D. Edwards. We won't be able to steer away from Microsoft."
"We don't have any plans for Linux on the desktop," says Hill, whose staff supports 1,000 Windows desktops. "The real reasons we have for not supporting Linux on the desktop is our faculty and students are Windows users. We also enjoy higher-education pricing from Microsoft, so Linux offers little to no price advantage for us. Third, if you have a broad base of Windows applications to support, putting Linux on the desktop creates a very big systems-integration challenge for us."