[techtalk] netware vs. linux..? (long)

Martin.Caitlyn at epamail.epa.gov Martin.Caitlyn at epamail.epa.gov
Wed Mar 21 16:21:16 EST 2001

Eric wrote:

> One major disadvantage with Linux (and unix-like OSs in general) is how
> file and directory permissions are managed. Unix started out as a
> project, and the simplistic permission settings are indicative of this.
> With Netware you can tailor permission settings to suit your needs.

I would have to agree with this.  NDS/eDirectory also makes it very easy to
set permissions on all sorts of devices, directories, and file systems
through a very well designed GUI that runs on (generally) a Windows client.
This is probably NetWare's strongest area, and where they really add value.
Microsoft's Active Directory is an attempt to copy what Novell has done,
and, IMHO, this is one area where NetWare is still ahead.

> In my experience Netware performs well as a file and print server, if it
> is administered by someone who knows the product well.

Again, I would agree 100%.  Here is the caveat, and the main reason I
advise most people who are not already Novell shops against NetWare.  There
is a relatively steep learning curve for anything beyond basic system
administration, and there are a lot of system tuning issues to get NetWare
just right on your network.  Going with NetWare guarantees that you are in
a multiplatform shop since it doesn't, for the most part, serve apps at
all.  It also means buying additional NetWare client(s) for your enterprise
backup solution, system/network monitoring solution, and so on.  This means
a generally substantial investment in proprietary third party software for
any shop big enough to really benefit from Netware's strengths.  It also
generally means a substantially higher investment in IT personnel, since
you are now paying for an additional skill set.  I should also add that
NetWare, in and of itself, isn't exactly cheap.

Oh, and don't even get me started on GroupWise vs. Exchange.  As much as I
despise Exchange, I can tell you endless stories about GroupWise that
aren't exactly complimentary.  As you get to larger enterprise mail systems
Novell always recommends throwing massive amounts of hardware at GroupWise,
too.  The resources needed to support, say, 6,000 users dispersed across
multiple sites are just horrendous, even compared to Exchange.  In my last
job we supported, oh... 6,000 users across multiple sites, so my comments
are based on hard experience.  Three full time GroupWise admins still
needed help from us network engineers *all the time*.  What a nightmare!

JB wrote:

> Netware 6, upon its release will add some functionality
> that has been missing, as well as some manageability issue.

That may be so, but every Netware x.0 release I am aware of has been
terribly buggy, even more so that most Microsoft releases.  Novell always
gets it right eventually, but I always advise people to steer clear of any
MS or Novell x.0 release.

> If I were given the choice, Novell over Windows, I would have to say

Prior to Windows 2000 Professional with Service Pack 1, I would have
agreed.  Now I don't.  Novell offers very few advantages now that Microsoft
actually has something stable out there.  Win2K is a lot more manageable
and flexible in an enterprise environment than NT 4.0 was, and it is
definitely *much* more stable.  OK, it's also more complex and a resource
hog, but that is true of NetWare 5 as well.

> But Novell over Linux would definitely be a toss up, and many factors
> would have to come into play.

I don't know how you can rate one vs. the other without knowing precisely
what Walt (or his company/customer) are trying to do.  How big is the
network?  What is it being used for?  What other NOSs are on the network,
and which need to stay no matter what do to applications being run?  Do
they have Terminal Server/Citrix in place (which Novell cannot serve
directly)?  Do the have UNIX/Linux IT talent on staff already, and would
they have to hire new or learn from scratch migrating to Novell?  Budget
factors have to be taken into consideration in most business environments,

I also believe that businesses have to take the marketplace into account
too, and sometimes that overweighs purely technical considerations,
unfortunately.  If NetWare is only slightly more suitable or slightly
better for their environment, but is losing ground badly in the
marketplace, what kind of a future does it have and is it worth investing

Once upon a time I was OS/2 certified, and I really, from a technical
perspective, liked a lot of what IBM was doing.  I had to be realistic,
though, when Warp 4 failed to catch on to any real extent, and advise my
clients away from it.  As it was I put far too many into OS/2 2.11/LAN
Server and Warp 3.0 (and subsequent upgrades) and they ended up in a
technological cul-de-sac.  It didn't matter that OS/2 may have had some
real superiority from a technical standpoint.  They still felt they had to
replace it, and they blamed the consulting firm, which I happened to own up
until December of 1994.  The firm continued to tout OS/2 until 1996 or
1997.  The folks who bought the business from me (my former
partners/employees) couldn't keep most of those OS/2 customers.  Yes, NT
3.1 was a joke.  3.5 was scarcely better.  Still, we should have seen what
Microsoft would be able to do in terms of marketing and invested in making
it work.  We didn't, even when 3.51 was clearly reasonably stable and
beginning to capture the market.  They paid a heavy price.

Novell, from a purely technological standpoint, still has some real
strengths.  In other areas both Microsoft and *nix have passed it by.  Even
if, all other things being equal, I like Novell a bit better, I still
wouldn't advise anyone to buy it today.  It has a shrinking installed base,
sales mainly to existing customers, and very little mind share among
corporate or even IT executives who, invariably, make the decisions in
large companies.  (No, I am not defending suits, just stating reality as I
see it.) I hate to say it, but NetWare is the next OS/2:  sound technology
lacking decent marketing equals a slow and painful demise.

It's just my opinion, and it's worth exactly what you paid for it, but Walt
and everyone else, if you are not already heavily invested in NetWare,
avoid it like the plague.  I'd like to think that the future belongs to
Linux.  If not, at least it will be shared by Linux and Microsoft, at least
until the "next big thing" comes along.

All the best,
(speaking only for myself)


Caitlyn M. Martin             martin.caitlyn at epa.gov
Systems Analyst              (919) 541-4441
Lockheed Martin
(a contractor for the US EPA)

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