Some people refer to Novell's NetWare as a legacy system, while others hope the Utah-based company can revitalize their stake in the networking market by leveraging their file-handling and directory technologies. Now, Novell has a product that will take some of your legacy hardware and turn it into something useful for a modern network.
Novell NetDevice NAS is, to say the least, a clever product. The premise is that with one CD, you can take pretty much any computer and turn it into a dedicated Network Attached Storage (NAS) device in 20 minutes.
To be specific, the machine needs to have an Intel or clone chip-set, 600 MHz or better, 384 MB of memory, 9 GB of storage, a CD-ROM drive, and a Network Interface Card (NIC). Beyond that, all that is required is the software. The installation is pretty much a set-and-forget deal. We found the ease of installation very powerful, and were able to get the appliance up and running without any specific expertise or problems.
Configuration and administration can be conducted from any workstation with access to the same subnet as the appliance, with Internet Explorer 5.x or better that has the Java Virtual Machine enabled. Alternately you can also use a console-based interface (so long as the device includes a monitor and keyboard), or Telnet in and use a Command Line Interface.
The Administration panel provides access to shut down or reboot the appliance, configure IP addresses, file access protocols, and user authentication. File Access Control is where you set file attributes and user, group, and trustee access rights. Similarly, User Accounts lets you create, delete and import users.
The Monitoring and Diagnostics Panel is your gateway for information and control regarding the appliance's status, memory usage, attached CPUs, current storage, hardware, and connectivity issues.
Novell has been shrewd in leveraging its own assets. The underlying NOS is, of course, NetWare, thus providing native file storage and interoperability within any heterogeneous network. The management uses eDirectory, the current marketing name for Novell Directory Services (NDS) the cornerstone of Novell's current foundation -- thereby allowing the appliance to appear on the network as a single logical device, and also provides secure sharing through Access Control List (ACL). If you are already using NDS, the device can be grafted (joined) to existing NDS trees.
Pricing is not cheap. The Novell NetDevice NAS Server with an unlimited Gigabyte license runs a buck shy of $3,500. Of course, you can obtain similar functionality for a lot less money using Linux, Samba, and eDirectory for Linux. You'd be sacrificing the ease of setup and use, and will require more on-hand expertise than this out-of-the-box solution. And if you're already making use of Novell products such as NetWare, ZENworks, or eDirectory, this integrates beautifully with your existing management system.
Probably the main no-brainer here is that a software solution for NAS makes sense. Traditionally, (if a technology only three years old can be thought of as traditional,) NAS devices are sold as hardware appliances, and so you're not only spending less on the acquisition, you can redeploy existing hardware that would otherwise be on its way to a recycling center.
NetDevice NAS is the first in a series of products that Novell plans to introduce, and it may just be that if they can figure out how to effectively market this line, there may be a future left for the venerable vendor.