louis martin
cns news & features

Mountain View, California--

Sun Microsystems and Novell Inc. announced a partnership last week that may give Novell's network software a lift and incline web developers towards Java and Sun's development tools. The announcement may not have Microsoft all shook up, but surely the would-be network company that promotes Active X over Java took note.

Sun announced that it will include Novell Directory Services (NDS) with its Solaris operating system, while Novell announced that it will include Sun's Java Workshop with its developer's tools.

Who Cares About Directory Services?

A directory service keeps track of general system information. Most users rarely give it a thought. But said Larry Weber, Vice President and General Manager for the Workshop Product Group at Sun Microsystems, "If it's not there, or if you're on a system with a better directory service, then you know it."

The addition of NDS to Solaris advances the cause of Novell, because NDS becomes available on a broader range of platforms. It is currently available with Novell's NetWare network operating system.

On Tuesday, the day before the Sun-Novell announcement, Novell independently announced that it will give away the source code for NDS and make it a public standard. This, according to Weber, allowed Sun to offer NDS on its platform, because NDS became an open standard.

Said Weber, "Proprietary services are shortcuts for lock-ins. We won't support anything which is not an open interface."

What Novell will be charging for is "layered services." One such layered service is "replication": the ability to put the same directory on two different machines and keep it updated, so that if one machine goes down directory services can be accessed on another machine. File and print services are other layered services that Novell will sell.

Solaris already offers a number of directory services, and the addition of NDS will not change that. What is important, said Weber, is that a single NDS will be available across platforms for applications developers. And perhaps that could help maintain NetWare's lead over Microsoft's NT Server software.

Java Deal

In exchange for including NDS with Solaris, Novell will purchase Java Workshop and include it with their NetWare development tools. Said Weber, "Novell has made a strong commitment to Java for their systems, and so it's really key they help their developers move to Java effectively."

Symantec and Borland also offer Java development tools. The partnership may give Java Workshop an edge over Symantec's "Cafe" and Borland's "Latte," both of which were available before Java Workshop.

In addition to including Java Workshop, Novell will also include Sun's Just-In-Time compiler (JIT) and WebNFS.

The JIT is machine-dependent. It takes the from the Java CLASS files that are sent over the network and completes compilation for the particular machine where an applet is run. This speeds up execution of code. Since NetWare runs on the Intel architecture, Novell's JIT will be for that architecture.

In addition, Novell will include WebNFS from Sun, an access method or Internet protocol developed by Sun. The normal protocol for web access is http. Sun claims that WebNFS is more efficient than http. It takes an NFS server, and a browser supporting WebNFS, to make it work. Currently Sun systems support the protocol, but the company would like to see other systems support it as well.

"With Novell providing it on their server," said Weber, "this is a strong inducement for browser manufacturers to include WebNFS in their browsers." Sun claims that pages with lots of small graphics can load up to ten times as fast, though they say the speed improvement is minimal for short text pages.

WebNFS was announced by Sun two months ago.

Novell will include Java Workshop and the JIT in December. No exact dates have been set for inclusion of WebNFS in Novell's NetWare or NDS in Solaris. Both companies are evaluating implementations, which should happen sometime in 1997, said Weber.



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