Novell's next-generation network operating system, NetWare 6.5, will include browser-based portal and team services functions, directory integration and an application server for Web services.
NetWare 6.5, code-named Nakoma, has been in closed beta trials for months but will move to public beta in April and will begin shipping in the middle of the year, said Novell product manager Rob Seely.
Seely listed 14 new features plus six improvements, focusing on the new Virtual Office interface, which brings together the previously released iFolder and iPrint Web services with new Virtual Team and eGuide functions. Virtual Office allows users to print, access and manipulate documents and collaborate via instant messaging and other functions in virtual teams from a customised browser.
EGuide, a directory program, was already an internal Novell capability but is new to NetWare 6.5. With the help of Novell's meta directory, DirXML, eGuide provides connectors to multiple directories including Novell's eDirectory, Windows NT domains and Microsoft's Active Directory. Using the Virtual Office browser, a user could see all directory information with a single password.
In addition to Virtual Office, NetWare 6.5 focuses on business continuity and Web services innovations, Seely said. Among those features are Snap Shot Backup, allowing a continuous backup to a server over a network so that work is preserved. The exteNd App Server and Perl, PHP and MySQL open-source programs are also part of the package.
Beta tester George Raetzke, a senior systems programmer at Northern Illinois University, hailed a new server consolidation utility in NetWare 6.5. He said he would like to deploy a new cluster of servers using the utility, meaning multiple servers could work with pointers to a program in one server, resulting in a "huge savings in space for our labs".
The university has about 75 servers running earlier versions of NetWare and many Windows NT servers used for Web functions. Both AD and Novell Directory Services (NDS) are in use. EGuide and DirXML in Version 6.5 would help with integration between AD and NDS, Raetzke said.
Another beta tester called the server consolidation tool a potential "lifesaver" for future migration to newer server hardware, adding that the Snap Shot Backup would allow administrators to back up a database with no downtime during the workday instead of overnight.
Gartner analyst John Enck said the latest version does an "outstanding job" of enhancing the Web interface in Virtual Office, and described the integration with AD as an important feature for enterprise users who want to support multiple directories.
Enck predicted that NetWare 6.5 may help Novell stall NetWare's market decline . "It will help stop the bleeding, but no non-Novell customer will go running to 6.5 either," he said.
NetWare generated $2bn for the company in 2001 and $1.6bn in 2002, but Gartner predicted this could fall to $600m by 2006 unless future releases improve the outlook,. There are now four million licensed NetWare users, Novell officials claimed.