back to article NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden

Worries about US spying in China have sparked new interest in Novell's venerable NetWare product line. NetWare ruled the LANS of the early 1990s, providing file, print and directory services in the days of client/server. Like so many other companies of the era, Novell struck trouble once Microsoft arrived in its patch. Windows …

  1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Cheyenne ArcServe.

    [T]he first commercial NLM was Cheyenne Software's ARCserve [...] I've no way of knowing if there's a single line of code that's made the journey.

    I hope not. Cheyenne ArcServe was a very unreliable piece of backup software on NetWare.

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      Re: Cheyenne ArcServe.

      Hey, it was the 1990s, everything running on PCs was highly unreliable. Even Sun workstations crashed from time to time.

      Netware only gained such a good reputation as it didn't crash every couple of months.

    2. Bloakey1

      Re: Cheyenne ArcServe.

      Whoaah. Probably the worst backup software I ever saw. I once saw it strip a server off all OS files and then attack the user data. That was a very long weekend.

      Backup Exec was another monkey although of a different hue.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cheyenne ArcServe.

      I thought the first was the Btrieve(?) database NLM.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cheyenne ArcServe.

        Arcserve was ok once you got it patched and got used to it's idiosyncrasies, I was working for a large bank in London who used it extensively, and I was always getting jobs to install or set it up, issue was no one was willing to spend the time setting it up and playing with it, like everything else you needed to invest the time learning how to use it and patching was obligatory.

        For the time Arcserve was good, it's just a lot of support guys at the time outright feared touching it.

        1. theblackhand

          Re: Cheyenne ArcServe.

          I suspect a lot of people feared Arcserve as it had a lovely habit of abending their servers.

          And while they could he fixed with the appropriate patches, getting said patches (from Novell and Cheyenne) wasn't always trivial. Even after we upgraded our Internet line from 9k6 to 256Kb.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Cheyenne ArcServe.

            Only used ArcServe once it went to CA but nothing kernel panicked our servers quite as well as its backup agent.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cheyenne ArcServe.

      Hey leave it alone, it was fantastic at verifying data on blank tapes..

      Back Up successful...Check!

      Verified data....Check!

      Restore data...waddya mean the tapes are ****ing blank? What ALL of them?

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Developing NLMs

    Novell always felt that its NetWare Loadable Module application server deserved more attention than developers were willing to give it.

    The problem with writing NLMs was the development cycle: Write, compile, copy to server, run, crash, reboot server, repeat. This was due to NetWare not having a protected memory model like *nix or Windoze NT.

    Once VMware came along, you could cut that cycle short with snapshots, but by that time, the writing was on the wall for NetWare.

    Another problem with writing NLMs was documentation. Hardly anyone wrote about writing NLMs.

    They tried to improve things by porting Java to run on NetWare, but the documentation for the NetWare libraries wasn't much better, as far as I can remember.

    1. John Deeb

      Re: Developing NLMs

      A Non e-mouse: "This was due to NetWare not having a protected memory model like *nix or Windoze NT."

      Utter Nonsense! It was not much different when developing kernel modules for Unix or anything video related for NT4. Most people's problem with NLM's were caused by a) it operating in the lower ring or more often b) exposing a bug in the buggy main kernel or c) not knowing how to deal with a crashed NLM.

      Protected memory worked way better since Netware 5 but as you said, by then it was already writing on the wall. There was no comeback from the lure of having a Windows operated Application & File Server combo, no matter how slow, insecure or unmanageable and featureless those turned out to be for a long time to come. The intuitive looking interface and seducing promise of more (visual) integration between client and server was enough.

  3. Sgt. Pinback

    are they really deploying Netware?

    Seems unlikely they'd be using Netware, will Novell even sell new licenses? Surely they're talking about Open Enterprise Server on SLES?

    Given a certain society's keenness for all things piratey I kind of doubt that many in the middle kingdom are paying Novell for much of anything. just sayin

  4. Lusty Silver badge
    Black Helicopters


    Thank goodness Attachmate isn't a 'merkin company otherwise they'd be subject to the same laws as MS...

  5. Pinkerton

    Proprietary 32-bit NetWare or SLES-based 64-bit OES?

    One for the the author of this article 'cos I is confused!

    Are the Chinese rolling out old knocked-off copies of the no-longer-sold NetWare (32 bit only, NLMs, Abends, proprietary kernel) or are they on the current product, Novell Open Enterprise Server (64 bit only, NetWare-stylee services running on SLES)? If the latter it kind of knackers the headline because that isn't NetWare, it's OES. NetWare having gone out of general support in 2010.

    There was a brief period where the two products ran side-by-side, branded as OES NetWare and OES LInux but the NetWare brand has long since gone.

    I am genuinely interested to know which of these two different products - proprietary 32-bit NetWare or SLES-based 64-bit OES - they're all going for in China.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was it hell....

    "Novell struck trouble once Microsoft arrived in its patch. Windows NT 4.0's improved domain services, and strengths as an application server*, made life hard for Novell."

    No, for ages Novell was way better and easier to administer than NT, early Active Directory, and Domains before it were a joke, and who can remember the ritual of restarting NT servers at regular intervals to get around memory leaks?, what won the day for Microsoft was aggressive and deceptive marketing, like presenting Workstation and Server license sales as a single number to clients so it looked like installation figures for NT were way higher than they were, and selling it very cheaply to get people to convert.

    Novell's other problem was being heavily command line based it looked old fashioned against Windows servers GUI's, which helped sell Windows where you had some clueless CIO making the decisions, I remember someone from Novell telling me the Java server console was introduced mainly to counter this perception, problem was with Java at the time it ran like a dog, most people who knew Novell used Command line or the normal DOS based applications which ran faster anyway

    I worked on both Novell and Microsoft during this period, and the tricks Microsoft got up to in this period (late 90's) got them a very bad reputation with most techies I knew.

    Windows Server is good these days but NT3/4 were some way away from being reliable server operating systems.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Was it hell....

      Novell's other problem was being heavily command line based it looked old fashioned against Windows servers GUI's, which helped sell Windows where you had some clueless CIO making the decisions

      I remember someone saying that MS pitched early versions of Windows Server as being so much like normal desktop Windows, you didn't need a techie to run it, your secretary could do it in their spare time.

      Being a techie, I loved the NetWare command line. I remember many times bring up a server (server -ns -na) and manually loading drivers and binding protocols to rescue a broken NetWare box.

      1. Anthony Shortland

        Re: Was it hell....

        I remember someone saying that MS pitched early versions of Windows Server as being so much like normal desktop Windows, you didn't need a techie to run it, your secretary could do it in their spare time.

        This was kind of true, if you were talking about a 5 to 10 user workgroup. NT4 had so few features and so bad scalability 5 to 10 users was all it was really good for.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Was it hell....

          One of the areas where Netware was very weak was in small scale business networks, they tried a number of different options but none of them sold well.

          It was also a problem of 2 different philosophies, Netware was based on replicating a mainframe environment, give users as few rights on the network as possible and centralized control, whereas Windows allowed anyone and everyone to share directories and data themselves which was a nightmare for a large organization to control but good if your had a few tech savvy employees in a small company who wanted to share stuff (developers etc.).

          Active Directory and policies finally allowed corporates more control but I remember Windows doing well in small companies where they just wanted to share some directories and a printer on the 5-10 user license.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Was it hell....

      early Active Directory, and Domains before it were a joke

      A colleague went on an NT(4?) course. He was told to put as few details as possible into objects (and definitely no pictures!) as the domain/AD syncing was terrible: When an object changed, Windows had to sync the entire object, and not just the changed attributes. I also seem to recall that Windows synced by polling for changes, whereas NetWare was event driven and would only talk when needed to.

      I assume that's changed by now...

    3. Anonymous Coward


      "No, for ages Novell was way better and easier to administer than NT, early Active Directory, and Domains before it were a joke, and who can remember the ritual of restarting NT servers at regular intervals to get around memory leaks?"

      I have to disagree there, although being a former Novell netware administrator myself I'll easily admit that Netware had many advantages. But it wasn't better "by design".

      Example; (re)configuring your server. As you said; lets talk Netware Directory Services ("NDS") vs. Active Directory ("AD"). On Windows I was able to use a client environment to connect to my server console to perform specific administrative task, even then. Although with NT 4 the 'terminal service' was more or less a separated feature.

      But there was more... The Microsoft Management Console; a management protocol which allowed you to truly perform remote administrative tasks. You didn't need to gain access to the server console; as long as you got a connection to the server itself. Then mmc.exe could contact the server and perform its administrative tasks. This even holds true today (obviously).

      And even then NT had already options which allowed you to divide tasks between an administrative team. You could assign rights; preventing your PFY from accidentally resetting your server (which, lets be honest; was likely bound to happen anyway, but the fact still remains).

      With Netware the only option you had to administer your NDS was to go to the server itself in order to work behind the console, just like with so many other tasks. Dozens of administrative tasks required you to sit behind the server console because you needed a specific NLM for the task. Now, granted, you had rconsole & remote.nlm which allowed remote access to the server console (just like NT could).

      But here's the problem: it had no options to differentiate between administrators. Only one password stood between you and the server console. So even your PFY could easily mess things up to extreme heights when he had access.

      They managed to overcome some of it by developing client tools which could also run on Windows (and thus also provide a graphical environment, something which NDS required at one point; no more commandline management tools). But by doing so they made it all the more appealing to move to a Windows server as well. After all; if you already required a Windows client to administer a server...

      Don't get me wrong though; Netware had many strong points in comparison to Windows NT. But it wasn't better by design, not as you make it sound anyway.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: @ ShelLuser

        With NDS, you only needed console access if you needed to run DSREPAIR to fix NDS corruption. Fixing your main authentication database is not something you'd give to a PFY. All other day to day tasks (including managing replicas and partitions) was handled via Windows client tools which used NDS access rights to control who could do what.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC

        Netware had command line client tools for many common NDS functions from the beginning and by the time NT4 was around you had Windows client tools like NWAdmin which if anything was way more centralized and efficient than the hodge podge of utilities for Active Directory, and which similarly let you do anything from a client.

        As for the bit about the Administrator account, same as Windows, who the hell just uses the admin ID, you can create an account with the appropriate privileges, Netware had a very comprehensive rights system.

        "But it wasn't better by design, not as you make it sound anyway."

        Remember Novell was developing these technologies way before Microsoft built AD, it took a long time for directory services like NDS and Active Directory to be used widely and they both met a lot of resistance, I can remember Windows shops clinging on for dear life to old style domains, it also depended how up to date your organization kept their Netware servers operating systems and utilities I knew a number of places that kept versions way after their sell by date just because they were stable, if you kept an eye out there were lots of utilities released to make your life easier (Same for Microsoft actually)

        Time blurs a lot of these things but I remember for a long while Netware was a lot easier to work with operationally, I last supported Netware around 2000,and certainly at that point none of the issues you point out were a problem for me.

      3. Mentalfloss

        Re: @AC

        Ummm, sorry to point this out to everyone but you flat out lie or never worked on NetWware systems. I installed and managed hundred's of those critters. I never walked up to one after initial install to manage anything. ESPECIALLY once NDS was introduced.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @AC

          I worked for 14 years with Netware, from Advanced/86 through to Version 6 and had 5 CNE's, it was a nice operating system but like anything else you had to put the time in to learn it, I have also seen some guys do amazing stuff with Microsoft Windows over the years and UNIX/Linux, it's just a matter of knowing your stuff, all hardware is pretty much the same, all O/S's are pretty much the same, they all have their nice and nasty features and they all need patches and upgrades.

          All the comments on here about Arcserve crashing servers, Netware Abends, or people administering servers for an entire company with the administration account using the same password, RTFM guys!, for any of this stuff there were usually fixes available, or articles and books on good practice.

          Pre internet we used to get Novell to courier stuff to us if we found a persistent issue had a fix, if anything the average techies job has become extremely easy now, most information or patches are a click away.

          If you are serious about this job when something fails you ask why, and how do I stop it happening again, if you just restart and moan about the product you're using, or wonder why someone compromised your network because the Admin or root password was on a Post-It note on your monitor, or given to everyone including the cleaner you're failing to do your job.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Was it hell....

      Don't care much for the OS, but I do know IPX/SPX was fucking horrible....

  7. razorfishsl

    Groupwise was a complete abortion, then they added direct connection to the internet via an SMTP NLM , which blew a massive hole in the Netware security.( you could leverage text messages to send commands to the groupwise system)

    Not only did the SMTP module have ZERO security, it allowed the free relaying of any messages sent to it, from ANYWHERE on the internet to anywhere.

    Almost the biggest waste of money our company invested in computer systems.

    don't even get me started about 'arcserve' or even 'faxserve'

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Not only did the SMTP module have ZERO security, it allowed the free relaying of any messages sent to it, from ANYWHERE on the internet to anywhere.

      From memory, the SMTP gateway would accept messages from anywhere to anywhere, but would only pass on what it was supposed to pass on. This behavior was a pain, as many security people claimed the gateway was an open SMTP relay, when it only appeared to be an SMTP relay. It was quite late in the day that they fixed this behavior.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        re: smtp

        But did you ever check out the myrealbox demo of their internet email system (not groupwise)?

        200k accounts, 50k active users on a dual-core, two node cluster (was that the late 90's/early 2k's?) one node did smtp, the other imap, with failover each way. Very, very impressive performance.

        Novell had terrible marketing and windows was being sold for 60 quid. Normal retail for Win8.1 in Oz is now $400 and its tied to your pc, it isn't an independent license! Ain't monopoly wonderful!

        The NT memory protection was better and it had PHB, "its just like a desktop" appeal. This was a time when many companies ran on WfWG. Novell should have gone to *nix far earlier, before Windows got a foothold.

        I'm still surprised Novell didn't take advantage of their directory for *nix app server configuration. Boot a new server, give it an IP and email "role" and it pulls all its config from the directory, updating DNS MX records etc. No messing with unix config files required - essentially running FUSE + directory.

        1. Sgt. Pinback

          Re: re: smtp

          That was Netmail, myrealbox was like a hotmail service run by Novell to show off the tech. I remember deploying Netmail to a small high school to supply about 600 email accounts for students and staff. It stood out against others like Exchange/Groupwise/Notes at the time because of the software specs, super efficient. I think it was rated at something like 500KB memory needed for every logged in account, fast fast fast on a dual PIII.

    2. Mentalfloss

      I was a beta site for the cluster product and had an 8-node cluster up and running in production the day it went on sale. My GW system supported a law office with 8 locations and about 500 seats. The practice used GW as their document management system as well and we had >2 million documents in there. It ran like a top, well except maybe 5.5.3 SP I think was bad, so bad I remeber the version. Like anything good in IT if you put the blood sweat and tears in to learning your system and time needed to properly maintain, it was awesome. Any abortion goes to admins not knowledgeable and go with the slick pointy clicky winders interface for n00bs. Windows is not a server. Put 20,000 files in one folder with a Windows server, HP Gen8, two 6-core processors, 32 GB of RAM. Now take a Dell P3 Optiplex PC with 512 MB of RAM and install NetWare 6. Put those same 20,000 files in a single share. On Windows server it will take you 1 minute and 15 seconds to open that share. Remove 8.3 support, increase MFT and you get it down to 50 seconds. On that 10 year old PC? 5 seconds to open that share. Same goes for *nix and Samba. Anyone who thinks MS servers beat out ANY other OS in performance and reliability is sadly mistaken after drinking the koolaide.

  8. M. B.


    ...was the first industry certification I ever achieved (NetWare 4.11). Unfortunately I was not able to secure work as I had just graduated from college at the time and no one wanted a 0 experience admin. Shortly thereafter, Windows NT 4.0 took over the marketplace in my area and it was easier to find work as an MCP supporting Windows Server after a few months of desktop experience than it was to find anyone looking to hire untried CNAs, but I did certainly prefer NetWare.

  9. Mentalfloss

    I miss NetWare...

    In the 90's I had a BorderManager server running as my firewall on a Compaq server with a single disk drive. That drive failed, the server ran for another three months. No logs or any changes could be made, but what other major OS stays running with its sys drive pulled out from under it?

  10. John Styles

    An NLM, Do doo be-do-do

    (or 'No Laughing Matter' as a friend used to call them).

    The thing that did for Netware was the irksome Novell support priesthood who had every incentive to insist that computer networking was a complex business. Then when WIndows for Workgroups (or Widows for Wombats as we called it for some reason) came along, a small office could string wires between a bunch of PCs and have a peer to peer network.

    Our Netware preiesthood were wildly pleased with themselves and wildly unhelpful (*) - now, clearly, for a big organisation Netware was probably better at the time, but the strung together WfW machines acted as a bridgehead for Microsoft.

    (*) and I don't say this just because one of them was a short bearded berk (not to be shortist, or beardist or, indeed berkist) who, despite being a colleague, called environmental health to complain when our burglar alarm went off and didn't cut out.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Banyan Vines forever!

    I feel I should stand up and be counted.

    Yes, I'm heading to the coat rack now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Banyan Vines forever!

      Oh so you were the one running Banyan! lmao

  12. Michael Duke

    As a 20+ year IT veteran who supported NetWare from 2.15c up to v6 including Groupwise 4.1 -> 5.5 migrations and 5.5 -> 6.0 as well I really enjoyed the stability and performance of NetWare against Winblows.

    I had NetWare 3.12 servers with 400+ days of up time, try that on NT 3.1/3.51, it just did not happen.

    Compare Windows 2000 AD to NDS on NetWare 5.1 and there was NO comparison, NDS was so far ahead MS needed a telescope to see it.

    But marketing and ownership of the desktop triumphed over a superior product and here we are today with MS still not caught up in some areas, there are still limits to how you design an AD for 20K users when NetWare and NDS was just getting out of second gear with 20K users.

    Unfortunately I see a lot of similarities between Novell and VMware :(

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