Introduction to Novell
This section covers Novell so as to give you enough information to design a mixed network successfully. In most mixed networks, you will likely encounter NetWare as an existing operating system on a network. Novell NetWare has gone through many changes over the years. This section compares and contrasts the major points of releases 3.12, 4.0, 4.11, and 5.0.
What's the Difference?
The default protocol supported in all versions of NetWare (excluding version 5) is IPX/SPX. IPX/SPX is a proprietary protocol developed by Novell specifically for NetWare. TCP/IP was an add-in product. (Microsoft implements a protocol called NWLink IPX for compatibility with Novell servers.) This made it very hard to design a mixed network. Most of the time you were required to use a protocol gateway to span mixed networks. However, with Microsoft's implementation of NWLink and Novell's use of the IP add-in, the task became a little easier.
Novell noticed that most network designers were choosing to implement TCP/IP as a routed protocol, so they made some changes to NetWare. Novell now uses TCP/IP as the default protocol for NetWare versions 5 and higher.
While we are on the subject of protocols, another major change to NetWare with version 5 is in the client. All versions of NetWare prior to version 5 came bundled with a client application called Client32. Client32 was installed on the desktop PC and acted as an authentication agent for the Novell network. The problem was that Client32 used Novell's TCP/IP stack. (That's Novell's implementation of the protocol. Not all implementations of the same protocol are the same under the hood.) When Client32 was installed on a desktop running a Microsoft operating system (using the Microsoft TCP/IP stack), the two IP stacks would often conflict. This made administration a very tough job. Administrators would often find that programs written specifically for the Microsoft IP stack would no longer work as designed.
From an administrative standpoint, it's the little things that matter. For instance, the user setup screen is similar to that of Microsoft Exchange. The NetWare user screen holds a myriad of information tidbits such as phone number and location. Another minor but no less important administrative difference is the messenger. Did you ever use the Send User a Message option in Windows NT Server? In nine and a half years I have never gotten it to work. The messenger in NetWare really works. Why is that so important? If you need everybody to log off the system for any reason (usually a system shutdown), the easiest way is to send a message right to their screens.
What's Different Under the Hood?
As we now know, the Windows NT directory structure is based on domains. Your rights as a user depend on the domain you belong to. The directory employed by Novell in versions of NetWare prior to 4.11 was called bindery. Bindery rights work similarly to domain rights in that the bindery the user is in determines his or her user privileges.
This changed in NetWare 4.11. Novell revolutionized the directory structure market with the tree structure. Now NetWare domains are broken down into units, each one a little larger than the one below it. Each unit has its own body of rights that cascades down to the units below but does not flow up. This means that the uppermost unit may have a rule that says "users in the staff group can access anything," but three units down there may be a rule that says "Joe (who just happens to be in the staff group) can't access the accounting volume." Sound familiar? It's the predecessor to Microsoft's Active Directory.