OS UPDATE - Part 5

by Wayne M. Krakau - Chicago Computer Guide, December 1998
This is the fifth column in my series on operating system updates. It continues my coverage of the newly released NetWare 5, the latest version of Novell’s flagship product. As I mentioned last month, it’s a good news/bad news story, with an emphasis on the good.
Much of the publicity surrounding NetWare 5 has been about its new Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Java is intended to be a near-universal language that can run on any operating system. The folks at Microsoft have attempted to dilute Java’s popularity by coming out with their own incompatible version of Java, but, so far, have not succeeded. The only thing they’ve succeeded in doing is getting themselves sued by Sun, the originator of Java, for violating the terms of the agreement between them regarding Microsoft’s use of Java. (Gee, Microsoft in court - what a novel concept!)
Microsoft has lost the first round in this battle, but the final results are not yet in. If the final decision goes against them, I fully expect the Microsofties to start a program modeled after the U.S. Government’s farm program in which the government pays farmers to NOT plant certain crops. In this case Microsoft could afford to pay huge fees to Java programmers to NOT write Java programs. They would get these fees in addition to any money that they could earn by programming in "permitted" languages, with bonuses going to those who choose Microsoft’s languages. Over time, Java would wither and die. That’ll teach Sun (and any others) to avoid going up against Microsoft! How dare they! (This speculation assumes, of course, that the Justice Department is totally - as opposed to the current partially - asleep at the switch.)
Novell’s Java Virtual Machine is a program that allows Java-based applications to run on a NetWare server. Novell also provides a version that can run on a properly equipped workstation, but, for now, that is really a side issue. The JVM provides an easier way for developers to create server applications, and Novell enhances their capabilities by throwing in a bunch of programming tools. (As for JavaBeans for NetWare, who comes up with these wacky names? Maybe it’s the radiation from monitors.) JVM is Novell’s bid for the application server market as well as its way to counter criticisms about the lack of graphical management tools on its server.
Right now, the only serious applications that run on Novell’s JVM are the new installation programs and a management program called ConsoleOne. The installation program’s benefits are obvious, given that many of the new features added to NetWare need to be configured before use. The old character-based INSTALL routine was already complicated enough in previous NetWare versions.
ConsoleOne contains a subset of the features that, up until now, have only been found in the workstation-based program NWADMIN. Some of these features are also present in the DOS-based NETADMIN, but nobody is clamoring for more network management via text-based, non-GUI (Graphical User Interface) programs. NETADMIN has been relegated to being a tool for only old die-hard NetWare geeks (like me!) when doing quick, experimental changes to things like login scripts.
ConsoleOne’s big advantage is that it alleviates the need to have a workstation handy when some NWADMIN-type task must be done while you’re hidden away in the server room. A JVM disadvantage, from corporate management’s point of view, however, is that while you remain unobserved in the file server room, supposedly working on the network, you might really be playing Java-based games on the server! (I suspect that the average time span between the invention of a new computer programming language and the design of games for that language is measured in seconds.)
ConsoleOne takes up tons of memory, and as with any GUI, can be processor intensive, so most people will turn it off when not in use, whereas a non-GUI tool like MONITOR can be left running continuously. ConsoleOne is also currently kind of slow, and it doesn’t yet completely duplicate the functionality of NWADMIN, or even take the place of the old faithful MONITOR program, but it is a major step in the right direction as far as system administration is concerned. Luckily, the underlying JVM itself is very fast, and I’m sure that ConsoleOne can be improved in subsequent versions, so the initial shortcomings are probably only temporary. (Hey, if Microsoft can wax eloquent about the features of an as-yet nonexistent product, then I can speak about expected incremental improvements in an honest-to-God real, delivered product!)
Obviously, except for Novell’s own management and installation tools, the usefulness of Novell’s JVM depends on the impact of Java on the industry as a whole. If Java is a success (in spite of Bill Gates best efforts), then having the fastest Java engine in the industry would be major advantage.
Another addition to NetWare 5 is a 5-user version of Oracle8, the popular relational database. From what I’ve seen, Oracle8 is tied with one other, much less common, product for the "most" relational database engine on the market. That is, it follows more of Dr. Codd’s rules than the vast majority of other relational and allegedly relational databases. Note that there are many database products out there that claim to be relational, but don’t follow ANY of these rules! (Sorry to rave out, but this has been a major pet peeve of mine since a totally non-relational product won the award as the best relational database in a major national periodical a few years ago.) The addition of Oracle8 to NetWare is pretty much an "either/or" proposition for Novell customers. If you use Oracle-based programs, it’s great. You just add additional user licenses as necessary. If you don’t use Oracle-based programs, then it’s a waste of a couple of tracks on an installation CD, and the source of a few more annoying questions on your next NetWare CNE or CNA test.
This saga will continue next month. Meanwhile, I will be trying to figure out why I didn’t have enough marketing sense to plug my own business when given the opportunity to at the end a recent radio interview. My MBA concentration was in MARKETING! My marketing professor must be rolling over in his grave! That thumping sound you hear is my head banging into the wall.
�1998, Wayne M. Krakau