Business Technology

Open Enterprise Server 11 SP2 Released

I’m a little excited about this announcement because OES 11 SP2 is going to serve as the backbone for some major infrastructure improvements here at work in the near future. The use of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP3 as the backbone has me excited along with a bunch of nice little additions and improvements.OES 11

The main thing I have  been testing is connecting OS X 10.9 Mavericks machines via AFP and I am happy to announce that it is working as it should right out of the box! That will open up some exciting possibilities for the future here on campus.

I still have some testing to do and then to actually order the hardware and do more testing … then FINALLY be able to make the switch and move us over to OES 11 and retire our aging NetWare 6.5 servers. They have served us extremely well, but I am looking forward to being able to shut them down for the first time and hopefully have our OES cluster serve us for years to come.


Why Novell

I’ve had some Novell posts creeping into my blog recently and you can expect that to continue.

I’m not even sure how many people have even heard of Novell anymore, but at one time they were a pioneer in networked computing. With NetWare and eDirectory (or Novell Directory Services) they were well ahead of Microsoft (and in some ways, still ahead of Microsoft) for networked enterprises.

With Microsoft now firmly in the “no one gets fired for using Microsoft” area of enterprise computing which IBM enjoyed back in the 80s and early 90s, Novell has steadily seen its star fall and in 2011 was consumed by the Attachmate Group and taken private, stripped of SUSE (now a separate entity within the Attachmate Group), divested of some other technologies (many of which were moved over to NetIQ, another Attachmate Group entity), and refocused on their core competencies.

At least that is how the story is being told now.

At Martin Luther College we still use Novell NetWare 6.5 as the backbone of both our networked file  and identity management/authentication services. Our main file server was put into production the summer I began working in Network Services … 2005. During that time it has been rock-solid. While you won’t find their name splashed across all of the latest IT websites nor talked about with excited tones around Twitter, the technology itself servers a vital purpose and is incredibly stable.

But why am I talking about a company who, admittedly, had its 15 minutes of fame 20+ years ago?

Old Technologies

While we might want to talk wistfully about all of the latest technologies and dream of a future where we can just beam everything back-and-forth without needing to kill trees, those days are not here yet and they might never be here either.

There is still a need for managed file serving, printing, directories, access management, etc. Those days are not behind us, they are here right now and the need to be able to handle all of those needs for differing groups of people still needs to be done. While we can’t ignore the future, we also can’t deny the present because you’ll end up with a lot of really ticked off people.

With iPrint, Open Enterprise Server, Identity Manager, and other “old” technologies you get some really compelling options to handle those needs. I’ll even admit that I want to spin up an instance of GroupWise just to see what it is like! In the rush to do away with the “old” maybe we’ve left some good things behind … or maybe those old things have been keeping up and we’ve been too jaded to see it!

New Technologies

Maybe even better than the old technologies is where Novell is heading with their new products. Filr is the one I really have my eyes on at the moment. The idea of adding Dropbox-like capabilities to our internal file servers is almost too much to pass up! With their iPrint Appliance, mobile printing is brought to our old, steady, stable of laser printers. Novell is offering the ability to take us from the past into the future of a mobile, collaborative technology without the need to completely rely on third party providers to do so.

I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on some TTP presentation recently and the roadmaps are looking good as well. I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of Novell and NetIQ and I think SUSE has really taken off recently. I’m watching what SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 is going to bring to the table.

More Options

Maybe most of all, I want Novell to succeed because they stand as an alternative to much larger, more entrenched players (namely Microsoft). Novell has a name which has been around since the very late 70s and has a rich history.

Their technologies also tend to “play nicely with others” better than their competitors. Open Enterprise Server has SUSE Linux Enterprise Server as its base operating system. Their appliances are all based off of SLES. They tend to try to accommodate Microsoft along with open source technologies. They want you to be able to use a piece of Novell technology, if you want to, with your own.

It is an irrational reason to cheer for a company. If Company A has great technology you shouldn’t necessarily cheer for Company B and Company C just to keep competitors in the market but that is what I want. I want a strong, vibrant market surrounding all sectors of information technology so that all of the players are being pressured or else we will end up with stagnant, terrible solutions to real problems we need to be solving.

Concluding Thoughts

So that is why I am talking about Novell. We are planning the rollout of more Novell technologies in the future and I hope to be able to continue to play around with what they offer along with their sister-companies.

I fully understand that the name “Novell” is essentially dead within the realm of the “it crowd”, but I implore people to come and take a look again and what Novell is offering and where the company is going. I think, right now, there is a lot to like and the future looks like there will be even more to come.


Looking at Novell Filr

I know that Novell isn’t exactly on top of the world of IT right now, but they have released some really interesting technology recently and I’m pretty pumped to be able to look at them right now for Martin Luther College.

Novell advertises Filr like this:

Feels like Dropbox. Acts like Fort Knox.

I think that just about sums up the idea behind the whole product. It is their replacement for iFolder (another older Novell product) as a way for users to have access to their files stored behind a firewall wherever they are. It syncs much like Dropbox (caching the files on each individual device and then syncing the changes back up), which is great for people (like faculty and staff) who do work outside of the confines of the campus’ network.

It also allows sharing of files both internally to the campus and externally with others, which is pretty cool too. Filr also allows commenting on files which can be useful for collaboration.

It all sounds great, but will it work as well as it sounds? I don’t know, but I want to be able to find out.

My ultimate goal would be to offer all students a “Dropbox-like” experience with their files. That would mean 2 GB of storage on our network file servers (also looking at upgrading to Open Enterprise Server 11 … sometimes my job can be fun) which can be accessed through the Filr client very similar to how Dropbox does it. They would also have access their files on their mobile device through the use of apps like Novell Filr for iOS.

That’s an almost 10-fold increase in storage space than now and a much better way for students, faculty, and staff to access those files from whichever device they prefer. That all sounds great!

Issue #1 with all of that would be storage space. With about 1000 active students any given semester, you are talking about 2 TB minimum to be able to offer anything like that for just the students. Add in 200+ faculty and staff into the mix and you then have a storage issue when, for the moment, you only have around 1 TB of storage total.

Issue #2 is one of backups. For example, if we have 6 TB of total storage (2 GB/student and 20 GB/faculty or staff), then you are far outstripping our current maximum single-tape storage capacity (we are switching to an LTO-5 tape drive later this week with 1.6 TB of native storage capacity and 3.2 TB compressed capacity). For a long while we would probably be fine as people start using the new capacity more and more, but in the future we would need a way to backup a total of 6 TB of space … and what if they need/want more in the future!? It is another thing to think about.

Issue #3 is serving those files offsite. Because Filr would be pumping out files into the world over our fiber line and then taking in those same synced file transfers, you would need to be prepared to have a big pipe standing by to handle that. Luckily, it looks like we will be having fiber run to our server room this year which will give us 200/200 access. A huge upgrade from our 50/10 we currently have.

Issue #4 is time. We need time to test things, find out how everything works, do training, test some more, do some more training and then get the word out there … after we deploy! It is going to take time, but I think it will be worth it.

More will pop up, but none of these are insurmountable AND it would start to move us toward a “mobile first” mentality. People want to be able to work wherever they are on whatever device they might have at the time. Novell is trying to meet that need with many of their offerings (looking at the new iPrint appliance as well).

I don’t want the future to be the “wild west of information technology” as many see in the future, but that means that we need to change how and why we make decisions in the server room. I’m happy to see Novell moving in that direction and am excited to see where it might lead.