BRAINSHARE: NDS is core of Novell's intelligent network strategy

NetWare Directory Services (NDS) is at the core of Novell s strategy to push intelligence from desktops and servers into the network for better network management and performance and lower costs-of-ownership, Novell executives said in keynotes at the opening of the Brainshare developers conference. 'NDS is the central part, the wedge, if you will, of our strategy,' said Novell CEO Eric Schmidt, touting the 'new face of Novell' as a global leader in Internet software.

NetWare Directory Services (NDS) is at the core of Novell s strategy to push intelligence from desktops and servers into the network for better network management and performance and lower costs-of-ownership, Novell executives said in keynotes at the opening of the Brainshare developers conference.

"NDS is the central part, the wedge, if you will, of our strategy," said Novell Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, touting the "new face of Novell" as a global leader in Internet software.

Novell is the company for the job, being a "specialised, networks-only provider," as Schmidt described the firm he took charge of last April. And "NetWare 5 is going to be the best pure IP (Internet Protocol) on the planet," he added.

His keynote appeared to buoy the spirits of the troops, several of whom attributed Novell's recent IP and Java moves to Schmidt.

The most significant part of Novell's new strategy is the shift to IP, said Fred Hendra, a network analyst at Morrison Knudsen, a heavy construction firm in Boise, Idaho. Now, "we can eliminate a lot of complication in our networks," he said.

Morrison Knudsen's WAN currently runs IPX but also has to support IP for the GroupWise users and NetBUI for users logging onto Windows NT Server, Hendra said. "So if we can eliminate two out of three (protocols) we'll be okay."

In addition to praising Schmidt for pushing Novell toward IP, other attendees praised Novell's inclusion of Windows NT integration into Novell products.

Novell "is making the Microsoft platform easier to use than Microsoft does," said Mark Wengelewski, a network engineer for Convergence Technologies Inc. in Chicago. "It proves that neither product is going away."

While acknowledging that NT cannot be ignored, Schmidt took his own jabs at Microsoft. "NDS for NT 'obviates the need for Active Directory,' which is good because it doesn't exist yet," he said, embellishing on an Aberdeen Group study.

One executive conceded that Novell has been hindered in the past by a lack of a cohesive strategy and tools. The company is uniting behind one strategy -- the intelligent network, said Christopher Stone, senior vice president of corporate strategy and development.

"NetWare, from an application development standpoint, has had a dearth of tools," he said. "And I plan to change that."

Glenn Ricart, chief technology officer for Novell, elaborated on the intelligent network strategy, pointing out that it represents the converse of the client-server design. Client-server relies on smart endpoints, at the server and the client, that are connected by a dumb network, he said. The next wave in computing will be an "intelligent Internet infrastructure" where a smart network connects the endpoints, which can include dumb devices, Ricart said.

This will happen in three stages, according to Ricart. The first one will have transparent changes, including a self-optimising capability in the network with proxy caches, he said.

The second stage will offer a seamless, locationless network, where all files and users have a single network image and networks are self-assembling, Ricart said. Directories in different organisations will also have the ability to "glue together," and the directory in general will become the platform for programming collaborative applications, he said.

In the third stage, servers and routers will be paired or merged and Java will be pervasive, according to Ricart.

This shift to intelligent networks will result in tiered pricing for network services, such as Internet access, so that users pay more for faster transmissions at times when bandwidth is scarce, he said. The pricing of the Internet will be similar to that of airplane ticket pricing, where demand and availability dictate, he added.

The intelligent network strategy struck a chord with at least one user.

"It's going to take a while, but the Internet is the future," said Rod Tucker, a LAN administrator for the State of Utah. "As far as the state is concerned, it's going to change how applications are distributed, and probably, accessibility."

In demonstrations during his keynote, Ricart showed: how NDS ActiveX controller could be used to create a directory; a use of context-less log-in; the use of Zero Effort Networking (ZENWorks) to customize user configuration and lockdown a desktop; how to export files into a corporate tree on which to query; and how to use an LDAP client to search NDS.

Ricart also said NetWare 5 will offer administrators to grant user rights at a more granular level, such as to the property level, allowing for designation of a password administrator and partition manager. In addition, users will be able to generate reports from the directory.

Novell, based in Provo, Utah, can be reached on the World Wide Web at http://www.novell.com/.

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