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Linux.SYS-CON.com Feature: Novell OES, The Leading Linux Server Product vs. Windows 2003, Server

A look under the hood of a leading Linux server product and compare it to its rival, Microsoft

As Linux continues to make significant inroads into the data center, I think it's important to look under the hood of a leading Linux server product and compare it to its rival, Microsoft. Whether I'm looking to buy a car, a stereo, or even a refrigerator, I've always loved comparison shopping. That said, I want to drill down feature by feature and directly compare Novell Open Enterprise Server (OES) with Windows 2003 Server.

Before continuing, it should be noted that Windows Server 2003 comes in four different flavors (not including 64-bit editions): Web Edition, Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Datacenter Edition. Web Edition is a limited offering designed only for running as a Web server. Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition are largely similar with the main difference being that Enterprise Edition supports four processors and clustering up to eight nodes while Standard Edition supports two-node clusters and two processors. Enterprise Edition also includes support for additional performance features such as Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA). Datacenter Edition is very similar to Enterprise Edition with added functionality for line-of-business application control. Datacenter doesn't include an Internet firewall.

Initial Setup

Novell OES
MInstalling OES was fairly simple. During the installation, OES guides you through an easy-to-follow wizard to gather any information needed to configure security and hardware settings, LDAP, Network Services, as well as eDirectory. Additional configuration was required, however, before eDirectory was up and ready to use. Since management is done through the Web-based iManager, Apache also had to be up and running. SSL Certificates had to be installed and configured with Apache since iManager requires SSL encryption.

Microsoft Server 2003
MInstallation was as easy as expected from any Windows OS. Boot from the install CD, follow basic instructions, and it's installed. Unlike 2000 Server, 2003 boots up with none of the installed server components turned on as a security measure. However, each component is easily activated via the "Manage Your Server" screen shown at logon. Clicking "Add or remove a role" on this screen brings you to a GUI to set up the "roles" your server can play. You can return to the "Manage Your Server" screen from the start menu to view and manage existing server roles, as well as add and remove roles.

Ease of Use

Novell OES
Though OES doesn't have wizards and management consoles that are as easy as Server 2003, Novell has really simplified the amount of technical knowledge required to set up and maintain OES. With GUI-based tools such as YaST and iManager, management is made easier. Installating OES took a little longer than Server 2003, but once iManager was up and running all other tasks became easier. One nice thing about iManager is that it provides the user with one centralized location for most, if not all server management tasks.

Microsoft Server 2003
From initial setup and configuration to management and maintenance, Microsoft provides easy-to-follow wizards and GUI management tools that simplify server setup tasks. After installation, the server management GUI shown at first logon steps through setup and is easy to follow. Microsoft does really well in the "user friendly" department. Its wizards and the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) really break complex tasks down to a level that's easily understood. Server 2003 keeps the management of most of its services consistent by using MMC as a common management platform.

Interoperability

Novell OES
Since OES can be run using either NetWare or Linux, interoperability between the two is rock solid. A single OES license lets the user build two servers of either foundational type and operate them both as a cluster. With this setup, eDirectory is the common binding element of the two and management becomes easier than using OpenLDAP. Novell has really done well at integrating its Linux and NetWare OES environments, but interoperability with Windows is another story. Connecting with Active Directory and NT domains presents two layers of directory services that must be resolved via additional tools such as Samba proxy services. Using these tools requires quite a bit of extra installation and manual configuration to get eDirectory and Active Directory to play nice together.

Microsoft Server 2003
Server 2003 has beefed up its interoperability with a new version 3.5 of Services for Unix (SFU). This helps to unify file sharing through the NFS client, server, and gateway and lets Unix scripts be reused on Windows. Though Microsoft has provided a basic interoperability facility with Unix and Linux systems, it's not a true integration of Unix or Linux clients with Active Directory, but rather an extension of Active Directory to behave as an NIS server. Macintosh services are also available for interoperating with Mac-based systems via the AppleTalk protocol as well as an optional user authentication module to use the same logon method as Windows users.

File Services

Novell OES
Novell provides options when choosing the file system to use for file services. Novell Storage Services File System is an attractive choice, with features such as visibility, a trustee access control model, multiple namespace support and a file salvage sub-system. OES lets you have an NSS volume on Linux and utilize NetWare's set of file permissions. However, using NSS on Linux will limit a few of NSS's features including volume encryption, Novell Distributed File Services (DFS), user space restrictions, and volume snapshots. Also available are other Linux traditional file systems such as ext2, etx3, ReiserFS, JFS, and XFS. There are also options as far as file sharing goes. Samba provides both file and print services to SMB/CIFS clients for traditional network file sharing (including Windows clients) as well as over http-WebDAV for Web folders. Samba is a popular choice for multi-platform clients. Novell's iFolder is another alternative. iFolder is included with OES and is a Web- and network-based file repository. Clients can access files a number of different ways. An iFolder client can be installed (on either Linux or Windows) to sync and secure connections to the iFolder server. NetDrive on Windows can also map iFolder stores as network drives. iFolder lets files be moved and copied quickly using an rcp-type (Unix Remote Copy) method no matter what the client type. NetStorage is another option for providing local and Web access to files without needing a client and can be integrated with iFolder to access iFolder data stored on other servers.

Microsoft Server 2003
Using "Manage Your Server," setting up the file server was done easily. It should be noted that any practical use of Server 2003 as a file server would require more steps made easier through the "File Server Management" console. The File Server Management Console lets you manage shares, sessions, open files, and do routine disk tasks such as defragmenting and partition management. New in Server 2003 is the ability to create "shadow" copies of shares. Doing this lets users view the contents of shared folders as they existed at previous points in time. To access shadow copies requires using additional client software, which is included with the Windows Server 2003 family. The shadow copy feature provides the same functionality as the file salvage feature that's been part of NetWare for a long time. 2003 includes an Encrypting File System (EFS) integrated system service to run on all disks (including clustered disks), which simply adds a level of protection while remaining transparent to the user. Removable Storage support is also part of 2003's File Server, helping to make it easier to track storage media, but Remote Storage is only available in the Datacenter edition of Server 2003. Windows 2003 also supports WebDav and NFS although setup is significantly harder than it is for CIFS

Print Services

Novell OES
A nice feature that OES has for print services is a Web-based printer map to locate and install printers. iPrint completes the install, automatically loading the print drivers if needed. All printing features can be managed from the Web-based iManager making all print server management tasks accessible from one interface. Another feature OES includes in print services is the ability to encrypt print data via SSL. Server 2003 doesn't offer print job encryption.

More Stories By Jon Walker

Jon Walker serves as CTO of Versora, an ISV providing Microsoft to Linux migration software. Mr. Walker recently has co-authored 2 whitepapers with Novell titled Migrating from IS Web Servers to Apache SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 9.0 and Migrating File and Print Servers from Windows to SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 9. Prior to Versora, Mr. Walker was CTO/VP of Engineering for Miramar Systems. Software developed under his direction at Miramar has been deployed to over 20 million computers worldwide. Mr. Walker has also served as senior technologist for Nortel and Xing Technology (now Real Networks).

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