Technology PaperIntroductionWhen mainframe and minicomputers providedthe backbone of business computing, there were essentially networked environmentsin the sense that “dumb” terminals shared access to a single processor(the minicomputer or mainframe), printer (or printers) and other peripheraldevices. Files could be shared among users because they were storedon the same machine.
Electrical and operational connections wereavailable in common and shared applications, and implementation of newhardware, software and users was a simple task so long as a single vendorwas used. With the proliferation of microcomputers in the businessenvironment, information became distributed, located on the various harddrives attached to personal computers in an office, and difficult for otherusers to access. Today, network systems which connect disparate hardware,software and peripherals are commonplace, but the communication programwhich makes using these systems has not kept up with the demand for suchenvironments, although a number of companies are now participating in thefield. This research considers two of the most popular network operatingsystems (NOS), NetWare by Novell and Windows NT by Microsoft, and considerswhich is appropriate for business applications. Network Operating SystemsOperating systems are the interface betweenindividual programs and the user. Through the operating system, theuser is able to name files, move them and otherwise manipulate them, andissue commands to the computer as to what the user wants to do.Order now
Networkoperating systems are similar to this, but exist (as the name implies)in the network environment. Thus a network operating system is usedto issue commands to shared devices, and to provide a background againstwhich scarce resources are divided among competing users. Ideally,the network operating system is transparent to the user, who is only awareof the ability to share information and resources. An efficient NOScan make the difference between a productive and an unproductive office,and between workers who are difficult to replace when they leave and thosewho are likely to be familiar with the NOS of choice. Despite their importance, network operatingsystems have faced challenges in the market because of the diverse hardwarerequirements that they must meet. Because of this, several differentoperating systems have been developed, some of which run in place of traditional(single-user) operating systems, and some of which run in addition to thesesystems.
OS/2, for example, provides a multi-user environment withoutrequiring a separate operating system. NOS development gained widespread acceptancewhen companies such as Artisoft (which manufactures Lantastic) introducedclient software which worked with a variety of servers. This madesoftware manufactured by companies such as Novell (which required specialclient-side networking software) vulnerable, and Microsoft’s Windows 95quickly became the client software of choice in the market (although notalways among analysts) when it was introduced since it can interface witha number of different server systems with complete transparency to theuser. This is the same concept used to develop OS/2 Warp Connect. Comparison CriteriaBecause of the current state of the market,having 32-bit capability is a requirement in most network environments. The various NOS alternatives need to offer a strong file and print base,since that is how most users access and use the networks.
Applicationservices, which includes the ability to run messaging, database, and otherserver-based applications efficiently in a client/server network is anessential requirement of most modern networks. Multiprocessor supportis an essential component, as is fault tolerance, high-quality developmenttools, and application support from third-party vendors. Hardware integration is also a key issuesince the NOS should be able to run on hardware which is readily availableat reasonable rates, and which is likely to continue to be available inthe future. Both the type of processor and the ability to use morethan one processor are important considerations in this regard. Arelated issue is the networking infrastructure, which includes the easeof use of the network transfer protocols and how well the server softwareprocesses multiple LAN adapters and internal routing. In addition, directory and naming servicesshould be easy to use, and multiple operating systems (such as DOS, Macintosh,Unix, OS/2 and Windows 3.
x as well as Windows 95) should be supported giventhe diversity of most network environments and to offer the greatest flexibilityto systems. Remote-access and Internet-access is also important sincemany users in networked environments use the network to access systemsoutside their own environments. Other criteria to be considered when choosinga NOS system is the after-sale support and the acceptance of the productin the market. After-sale support is important because any productis likely to require assistance for its users regardless of how well designedit is. Both Novell and Microsoft have a variety of support programsavailable, including 24-hour telephone support as well as support throughInternet sources. Novell’s Web site offers fax-back serviceand a list of frequently asked questions (although they are not identifiedas FAQs) and an extensive help facility for all of its products.
The support page can be reached directly, and provides comprehensive supportinformation. If the user cannot resolve technical support issuesover the Internet, telephone support is available. Microsoft has an extensive Web site whichis also easy to use and largely intuitive. Its support page can alsobe reached directly, and it allows users to query the so-called “knowledgebase,” which contains information on identified problems with Microsoftproducts.
Users can also employ Microsoft Wizards, which are similarto “guides” that the company has built into its programs. Anextensive support program (similar to Novell’s) is available in additionto the Internet, and neither company has an advantage in this area. Acceptance of the product in the marketis important because no one wants to purchase a product which is likelyto be obsolete in a few months or years. Obsolescence is importantfrom a technical standpoint, since the goal is to have a system which canbe expanded and which receives dedicated resources from its manufacturer.
However, it also important that a company select a product which is theindustry standard (or close to it) in order to reduce its training timefor new employees, and make it easier to hire employees in the future. By selecting a NOS which is widely accepted in the market, the companywill spend less time training new employees in its use, and will be morelikely to find employees who are already familiar with its operation. NetWareNetWare (from Novell) offers more featuresand flexibility in its file and printing services than Windows NT. But its efficient file-server software has been a double-edged swordfor Novell because NetWare’s developers did not focus on writing code formultiple processors or for RISC processors, because NetWare works so wellon the Intel processor.
However, database and applications servers,which are critical parts of a modern networking environment, often makeuse of multiple processors and the special advantages of RISC processors. Novell’s developers have only recently begun to focus their efforts inthis direction, and are now offering a multiprocessing version of NetWarecalled NetWare SMP. NetWare SMP still houses applicationsin NetWare Loadable Modules (NLMs), which can be unstable and are difficultto program. However, Novell recently announced its partnership withSun Microsystems to integrate Sun’s Java with NetWare as its applicationframework. Nonetheless, NetWare provides a strongcombination of excellent file and print capabilities with powerful directoryand naming services. For running network database and messaging applications,however, NetWare falls short of Windows NT Server, because NetWare cannotrun on any processors other than Intel.
To get multiprocessing capabilities,companies must purchase a separate product, NetWare SMP 4. 1. Bothof these Novell products still run applications in NLMs, which are potentiallyunstable and difficult to program. Windows NTWhen it comes to application services,Windows NT Server offers strong support for multiple as well as non-Intelprocessors along with abundant APIs, and applications from third-partyapplication vendors.
In addition, Windows NT uses a domain namingand security setup. Similar to the naming service offered by Novell,the domain system gives users easy access to the network, but only afteran exchange of verification information takes place between domain serversthat “trust” each other. Windows NT servers are make using theInternet Protocol (IP) easier than NetWare does; IP carries the “favorite”sorting tags of the powerful Internet working routers, while NetWare IPXdoes not convey all of the routing information of IP. The situationhas improved, however, now that NetWare provides NetWare/IP.
RecognizingNovell’s strong presence in the NOS market, Microsoft has also adoptedNovell’s network transport protocol, IPX/SPX, yielding software flexibilityon servers and extended options in extensions to the network. Microsoft Windows NT Server 3. 51 offersa combination of good file and print capabilities, excellent applicationservices, and optional messaging, database, mainframe connectivity, andmanagement applications contained in Microsoft’s BackOffice applicationssuite. The products that make up Microsoft BackOffice integrate wellwith one another and with the Windows NT Server to provide many of thefunctions a network operating environment needs.
However, Windows NT Server lacks powerfulnaming services. Windows NT Server’s naming services are based on domains,each of which can contain only one defined organization. It is possibleto link domains so that users in one domain can easily access the filesand services of another. However, the process of setting up and managingthese links is more complex and cumbersome than working with NetWare. ConclusionBecause of the way in which network operatingsystems are currently written, and because of the strengths and weaknessesof NetWare and Windows NT, neither solution is the appropriate solutionfor every type of business or every type of network environment.
Instead, the type of environment in which the NOS will be placed determinesthe correct product. If the organization is using a local network onlyto store word processing and spreadsheet files and to print, theneither NetWare or Windows NT offers a reasonable alternative as the NOSof choice since both handle these functions with ease. If the system includes a number of geographiclocations and information and requests for functions is passed among sophisticatedapplications, a richer and more robust environment is needed. A numberof organizations have turned to combining network operating systems inorder to support these more sophisticated needs. In these situations,the users gain the strengths of both systems while eliminating their weaknesses(the domain dependence of Windows NT, for example). BibliographyDryden, Patrick.
“Server Tune-UpHelps NT, NetWare Efficiency. ” Computerworld, November 11, 1996, 65-66. “Microsoft Support. ” http://www.
microsoft. com/support/. Newman, David and David Hurd. “SMP:Expect the Unexpected. ” Data Communications, 21 March 1996, 56-63.
Stanczak, Mark. “NetWare, NT Server Command-Central. “PC Week, 15 January 1996, N1-N2. __________.
“NOSes Challenge the Powerof Next-Generation Hardware. ” PC Week, 1 April 1996, 75-76. “Support. ” http://support. novell. com.
Surkan, Michael. “NetWare SMP Can’t KeepUp with the Competition. ” PC Week, 1 April 1996, 78. Vaughan-Nichols, Steven J. “Web-ServerBeats Novell’s NetWare Entry in Both Versatility and Capacity. ” Byte, May1996, 113-115.