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NetWare 6 Beta rolls out

Portals and Gadgets in abundance

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The much-anticipated release of NetWare 6.0 is almost upon us. On Wednesday, the firm started rolling out a number of beta programmes - but they came with a twist.

In earlier briefings with the firm they'd kept pretty tight-lipped about certain developments and certain holes that we had noted in the solution. Most notable among these was the lack of an interface.

There's little point having a NetWare environment sitting beneath the Internet cloud if there's nowhere for the users to connect to. However, Novell has figured this out: it solves the problem by jumping feet first into the Portal landscape with a couple of options which round out the product quite nicely.

The portals themselves are nothing revolutionary - when you look at the portal landscape as a whole - but for NetWare they are a much needed and admirable addition.

The portal solution is NetWare Web Access, and it provides the much needed interface onto the business. It enables users to turn the Internet into the connectivity layer and the interface into a set of business applications and services - it even, potentially, relieves the management burden.

Ultimately of course it's standard portal stuff - you log in, it picks up your profile from the Novell eDirectory, and supplies you with a site of features and services defined by your profile.

But NetWare Web Access the end-user portal can include anything from intranet profiles, to company services like printing, file server, your specialist apps, address books whatever - and you can hang other business applications, like Office, off it by using a handy little option called a 'Gadget'.

Further to that, if you want to add an application for changing passwords or something like that you can simply write your own 'gadgets'. It's all very customisable.

The problem with this of course is that you don't want to be sat in an airport using your NetWare Web Access product while printing off documents in your office - you want it coming out on a printer in the airport.

If it's available however - and the airport is on an available NetWare network - you can print it out there and then. You can build up lists of printers and services across the globe and, if you haven't got the driver, it will find it and send it to you.

NetWare Web Access can also handle Microsoft Exchange and other POP3 e-mail as well as its own GroupWise product, which has barely made in a dent in the enterprise, making it much more accessible and sensible.

The really clever bit about the Gadgets however is not that they exist, but that Gadgets are pretty clever interfaces. They will identify the device that you are using and that means the users get a page that is tailored for the device type - whether its WAP, Notebook or PocketPC. And it means you won't get a desktop full of the usual rubbish that you find - it just provides what you need, for the right device, wherever you are.

For the administrators, however, there is even more because into the portal you can bring all of the management tools that you could possibly need for remote adminstration. It's really just another example of how the NetWare Web Access product can be used to implement business functionality.

It's not rocket science of course. There are plenty of portals out there that can and will do these things. But for NetWare 6 it very much closes the loop on the NetWare architecture by putting an interface in the front of the whole thing that is available from anywhere outside, or inside, of the Internet cloud.

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