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January 26, 1998

Novonyx Suite 1.0

The first round of products from Novonyx—the joint effort between Netscape and Novell to port Netscape's SuiteSpot line to the NetWare platform—debuts today, and for the most part the products work well. However, minor inconsistencies, different management tools, and the normal spate of early-release bugs keep them from being "must-have" products.

There are four applications: FastTrack Server and Enterprise Server, both of which are Web servers, Messaging Server—which represents the focus of most of Novonyx's work to integrate Novell Directory Services (NDS)—and Enterprise Pro. Enterprise Pro, which we did not review, is the same as the Enterprise Server except that it comes bundled with Oracle7 and development tools. All four begin shipping today.

The FastTrack and Enterprise Web servers are almost exactly like their cousins on any other platform sans a few minor elements. Enterprise Server differs from FastTrack in that it includes an embedded search tool, a Java-based Web publishing module, and enhanced database tools. Messaging Server is not a port of the existing Netscape code, so it is similar to Netscape's Messaging Server in name only.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Netscape-centric Web services

The FastTrack and Enterprise servers have an almost exact feature match with implementations on other platforms. The products provide access to the same basic set of services, such as server-side JavaScript, and include extended logging, database connectivity, and Web-publishing tools.

However, what is noticeably lacking in this release is support for "hardware" virtual servers. Hardware virtual servers allow multiple Web domains to use multiple IP addresses on a single server. This feature is found on all other platforms and also in Novell's own Web server offering.

All administration of these servers is conducted with Netscape's Admin Server browser-based tools. There are no snap-ins for Novell's NWADMIN administration system, which is regrettable, because some of the enhanced functionality provided by that management platform has been lost. Also, features found in the Web server provided with IntranetWare today (such as resource-specific home pages and integrated authentication) are nowhere to be found.

Directory integration works

One nice feature included in Novonyx's port of FastTrack and Enterprise is its full support of Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) for authentication and access control. By pointing Admin Server to a Netscape Directory Server running on a Windows NT host, I was able to read and write users, groups and organizational units, and I could define access control scripts for resources on the NetWare server.

However, attempts to use Novell's own NDS-to-LDAP interface, known as NLDAP, proved to be much less successful. I was unable to get LDAP user IDs (UIDS) to match their NDS counterparts, nor was I able to provide password updates between the two systems. Although the Novonyx Web site has a lengthy section on how to get the UIDS to map to NDS, I never could get it to work. Novonyx's technical support insisted it should work, but I was unable to resolve the problem.

The goal is to allow administrators to tie access controls explicitly to NDS, although this must be implemented by manually editing a control file residing on the NetWare server. This process currently is not documented.

For server-based APIs, FastTrack and Enterprise both support a variety of developer options, including server-side JavaScript, Netscape's Netscape Server API, Novell's Local CGI, and HiTecSoft's WebBasic. Also included is a Perl interpreter that runs on the server, although approximately 25 percent of the common Perl commands are disabled. I was able to quickly deploy smaller scripts, but I was not able to port more complicated scripts from other platforms without encountering major rewrites.

Figure 2
Figure 2

NDS-centric mail services

Whereas the FastTrack and Enterprise server products are almost exactly like their Netscape equivalents, the Messaging Server is an entirely different product. It is not based on the Netscape source code and does not even use the browser-based Admin Server for its management services.

Instead, it relies exclusively on a snap-in for NWADMIN to define post office and user-specific settings. Users in large NetWare 4.1x shops will find this attractive because the integration is smooth and seamless, but large-scale users of Netscape's server line will find the lack of Web-based tools to be more than annoying.

Messaging Server offers full-featured SMTP, POP3, and IMAP4 servers, antispam and autoresponse agents, and a weak-but-functional, browser-based mail client. The POP3 and IMAP4 implementations seem complete. Preliminary testing with Netscape Communicator's Messenger was successful, although I did not have any luck with Microsoft's Outlook Express 4.0.

The mail server ties mailboxes directly to user accounts in the NDS tree: Any NDS user can receive mail (conversely, these accounts cannot be configured to not receive any mail). Users can retrieve their mail by specifying a full NDS context during log-in (such as ehall.sanmateo.ntrg); alternatively, they can search the server's current bindery context.

User accounts can have aliases if an NDS alias object is created, and the SMTP server will also accept mail for NDS groups, routing the messages to each of the group members. This functionality does not exist for containers, so if you wish to send mail to everyone in your company, you will need to create an NDS group containing all of those accounts.

Messaging Server definitely has some quirks. I would like to see a Web-based management interface and some migration tools, but overall this is a usable mail solution, particularly for small NDS shops.

Like most first releases, this trio of products has some inconsistencies; however, it basically does what it promises. Novonyx has drawn lots of attention because of its focus on melding NDS with LDAP, and on that point the results are mixed. The two Web servers are without any NDS integration, although the Messaging Server is 100 percent NDS-compliant. For NetWare shops committed to NDS, Messaging Server is worth considering as an Internet-centric mail solution.

This server offers good SMTP, POP3, and IMAP4 servers in a Novell Directory Services (NDS)-centric fashion. NDS shops will love its NWADMIN integration, but Netscape sites using browser-based administration on an enterprise level will not be happy with its lack of browser-based administration.

The Web servers are almost exact feature matches to their counterparts on other platforms. Netscape Web server administrators will feel comfortable rolling these products out across their existing NetWare 4.1x servers. But those administrators using the Novell Web server bundled with IntranetWare will likely find the lack of Novell Directory Services snap-in tools a disappointment.

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