Yes! It Works With NetWare:

From the late 80s to the early 90s Novell NetWare was the

Netware Opener

When people talk about Microsoft’s strategy of knocking out the competition by “cutting off their air supply,” the first example that springs to mind is usually Netscape and their browser. Microsoft was able to practically drive Netscape out of business by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows at no additional charge. But back in the early to mid 1990s, the biggest thorn in Microsoft’s paw was actually the Novell corporation. Their NetWare products occupied a niche that Microsoft just didn’t have the technical savvy to penetrate.

Long before Microsoft knew a 10-Base-2 cable from a V-2 missile, Novell was the name in the networked PC game. Novell networks featured dedicated servers that could be accessed from many different types of clients, such as DOS, Windows, Macintosh, and Unix systems. Novell servers were blazingly fast because they ran their own network operating system (NOS) with its own local disk and data- handling routines. NetWare delivered server performance and uptimes that Microsoft still can only dream about and that only Linux can surpass.

Then in the early 90s, the Micro-axe began to fall as in some hideous hi-tech slasher film. Windows for Workgroups appeared with its bundled network support, and Windows “shares” became a common phrase in the corporate vernacular. And then there was Windows NT. With NT, Microsoft finally offered a centralized way to administer networked Windows systems.

Despite all of that, almost 10 years AMUW (After Marginally Useful Windows), there are still hundreds of thousands of NetWare servers providing 24×7 uptime today. Unfortunately, many of these NetWare shops have to be getting nervous nowadays, wondering whether it’s safe to bet today’s farm on yesterday’s technology regardless of the fact that it still works great. Is it the case that Resistance Is Futile? Is it time to stop fighting and join the collective? Not if you don’t want to….

A Brave New World for NetWare Users

Everybody knows about Samba, the Windows NetBEUI/ SMB networking compatibility package for Linux. What you may not know is that migrating a storage-and-print-only NetWare server to a Linux server can be outlined in the five or so pages that this article runs. Linux also provides built-in support for coexisting with NetWare networks where necessary, and can make some of your existing NetWare clients happier than they’ve been in years. For example, NetWare support for client systems such as the Apple Macintosh is no longer actively under development, while Linux systems actively support Macintosh, DOS, Windows, Unix, and Linux clients.

Adopting Linux as a centralized server platform reduces your costs, provides growth and learning opportunities for your system administrators, keeps employees productive, and better positions your company’s computing environment for the future. With a few after-hours changes on your existing NetWare clients, your users won’t even know they’re not in Kansas anymore. Figure One lists the primary features provided by NetWare and summarizes their analogues under Linux.

Mirrored Volumes YES Yes, through RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks)
Centralized Administration YES Yes, through NIS
Centralized Print Services YES YES
Distributed Admin Rights YES Yes, through Linux groups or the sudo package
On-the-fly Data Compression YES Not really necessary with today’s huge, cheap disks
Expandable volumes YES Yes, through LVM (Logical Volume Manager)
Multiple Network Protocols IPX,TCP/IP IPX, TCP/IP IPX, TCP/IP, Appletalk, SMB
Gatewayed TCP/IP, Mail, etc. Add-ons such as Groupwise YES
Web Server Add-on Industry-Standard Apache
Mail System Add-on Industry-Standard Sendmail
Dedicated File Server YES Yes, if necessary
Support for DOS, Windows, Macintosh, and Unix clients YES Yes, through Samba, CAP, Macintosh and Unix clients, and netatalk

Comparing NetWare features and their Linux equivalents.

Not all of the Linux features shown in Figure One are available in off-the-shelf Linux today. For example, Logical Volume Management, which allows you to create disk partitions that aren’t limited to the size of the physical partitions on disk drives, is currently available only as a set of custom applications and patches to the Linux kernel. LVM won’t be available in stock versions of Linux for a while, but the enhancements are already available in bleeding-edge versions of Linux, and the source code is already available in plain sight on the Internet.

Compare this to preannounced features of Windows and Internet Explorer. For example, Microsoft announced in early 1996 that the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) would be used as the underlying data-exchange format in Windows and its Office applications. Available yet? Not quite, but “real soon now” — and heck, what’s four years without competition between friends?

The open source nature of Linux provides a clear vision of the features of upcoming versions of Linux that you can truly take to the bank when planning changes in your computing environment and network infrastructure. The keys to successfully positioning your computing environment to take advantage of the power of Linux are careful planning and a thorough understanding of how you currently use the technology you have.

Taking Inventory

When considering replacing your current NetWare environment with Linux, the first thing you’ll need to do is to analyze exactly what you’re using NetWare for on your NetWare clients. If you’re only using NetWare as a robust way of storing, retrieving, and printing files, you’re ready to move to Linux immediately. If you’re dependent on NetWare only because of its support for drive mapping in DOS applications, you can instantly replace mapped NetWare drives with mapped drives via Samba using the standard “net use” command that is found in Windows.

If you still need to support any applications that have explicit dependencies on NetWare, you won’t be able to remove NetWare until you replace or upgrade those applications. When NetWare was the only PC networking game in town, some network-aware applications internalized NetWare features such as user and group protection or had specific dependencies on the networking protocols used by NetWare. See the sidebar NetWare and TCP/ IP: Is She Really Going Out With Him? for more detailed information on networking protocols in NetWare then and now.

NetWare and TCP/IP: Is She Really Going Out With Him?

Until very recently, all client/server communications between NetWare clients and servers used the Internetwork Packet eXchange (IPX) and Sequenced Packet eXchange network protocols. Providing IPX/SPX protocol stacks for all NetWare clients gave Novell a simple way to guarantee that officially supported clients and servers could communicate with each other. However, the explosive growth of the Internet and intranets and their fundamental Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol (TCP/ IP), means that TCP/IP protocols are available for all up-to-date clients, eliminating the need for Novell to provide continued IPX/SPX support. Novell has therefore dropped its insistence on IPX/SPX and offers TCP/IP as the default protocol under its latest releases, such as NetWare 5.0.

The water gets even muddier on Windows and Macintosh systems, which each have their own primary network-communication protocol, the NetBIOS Extended User Interface (NetBEUI) and AppleTalk protocols, respectively. NetBEUI is used on DOS and Windows systems to support network drive mapping as well as mounting and sharing disks over a network. AppleTalk is the default protocol used on older Macintosh systems, while newer Macs come with TCP/IP that can embed AppleTalk packets to talk to older devices. Have a headache yet? No wonder so many network administrators in mixed-platform environments have gray hair, or perhaps no hair at all.

If you find that you are still running some mission-critical software that has specific NetWare dependencies, you can still begin migrating to Linux servers by moving all non-NetWare-specific applications and storage to Linux and maintaining your NetWare servers for these legacy applications as long as necessary.

Synchronizing NetWare and Linux Administration

Once you’ve analyzed and resolved any NetWare dependencies that you have, the next step in migrating your NetWare environment to Linux is to configure the user/group environment on the Linux system you’ll be using as a server. Creating a matching user/group hierarchy on your Linux system simplifies migrating your user data, ensuring that user clients that mount Linux directories get a view of your Linux server that matches what they saw when accessing the NetWare server.

To synchronize the administrative view of your NetWare and Linux systems, first create user accounts on your Linux system that mirror the user accounts on your NetWare server. See the Creating Linux Users sidebar for an overview of the Linux commands that parallel the administrative tools you’re used to in NetWare.

Once you’ve created matching user accounts on your Linux system, create groups on your Linux system that mirror the administrative groups on your NetWare server. As you create the appropriate groups on your Linux system, you assign Linux users to those groups in much the same way that you create NetWare groups and assign users to them.

Creating Users and Groups in NetWare and Linux

Netware Admin CR UserNetware Admin CR User 2Netware Linuxconf CR User
FIgure One: Creating a user object. FIgure Two: Advanced properties for a user object. FIgure Three: Creating a Linux user with linuxconf in Red Hat.

After Netware 3.X, Novell began moving the utilities for creating NetWare users and groups from NetWare console applications such as SYSCON, MAKEUSER, and USERDEF to the NetWare client systems. The Figure One and Figure Two show the basic and advanced NWADMIN32 screens used to create NetWare users for NetWare 5.

Figure Three shows the main panel of the linuxconf application that is used to create users on Red Hat Linux systems. As you can see, the different panels in Red Hat’s linuxconf command are selected using the tabs across the top of the linuxconf dialog. These provide the same basic functions as NWADMIN32′s property pages, which are selected during account creation by clicking the “Define Additional Properties” checkbox and clicking the vertical page tabs at the right of the resulting user property page.

The features provided by linuxconf for creating groups and assigning users to them mirror the user-creation features shown in the NWADMIN32 screen shots. Unlike historical Unix systems, most Linux distributions provide graphical tools for system-management tasks that rival those provided by commercial operating systems such as NetWare and Microsoft Windows.

Migrating NetWare
Data and Services to LInux

Once the administrative environment on
your new Linux server matches your NetWare
configuration, you’re ready to begin migrating
the NetWare data itself, as well as any
other NetWare-based services that you depend
on, such as printing. Volumes are the logical
containers where files and directories are
stored in NetWare, and don’t really require
special handling when migrating NetWare
environments to Linux — the key to the
migration is correctly organizing files
and directories so that users of your new
Linux server can easily locate resources.

The easiest way to migrate the directories
that people need access to is to use archive
applications such as zip and unzip
that exist on both NetWare client systems
and on Linux. These utilities create archive
files that contain the file and directory
hierarchy for each user and group directory.
You can then transfer these archive files
to the Linux server using FTP or by mounting a
publicly writable directory on the Linux
server using Samba and copying the archive
files to this directory.

The most important aspect of copying
your NetWare data is to make sure that you
extract the data from your archive files
on the Linux server with the correct
user/group ownership. On the Linux server,
you can do this “in advance” by using the
Linux su com-mand to assume the
identity of the appropriate user before
extracting the contents of the archive
files in the right directories. For example,
extracting the contents of the home directory
for the user “joe” on your Linux server
could be done using the following Linux
commands (executed as ‘root’):

# su joe # unzip joe.zip

You can also change the user and group
ownership of these files after extracting
files and directories on the Linux system
by using the Linux chown and/or
chgrp commands in conjunction with
the find command. For example, a
Linux command to recursively set the ownership
of all files in or below the home directory of
the user “joe” to “joe” and the group
ownership of those files to “accounting”
would be:

% cd ~joe % find . -exec chown
joe:accounting {} \

Shared directories on your NetWare system,
such as centralized mail directories that
contain files owned by many different users,
will require special handling as you transfer
them to Linux. To simplify moving directories
such as shared mail directories, you may
want to avoid the issue entirely by migrating
your NetWare users to a centralized,
non-NetWare mail system such as a POP or
IMAP mailer on a Linux system a few weeks
before beginning the NetWare-to-Linux
migration. In the case of common, shared
directories containing files owned by multiple
users, you may have to examine the ACLs on
each of the files using NDS and reset
their ownership appropriately. An easier
solution might be to simply clean out
these shared directories and let users create
new files there with their own client/Linux

Similarly, you will need to examine any
global or local per-user login or other
NetWare Configuration File (NCF) scripts
used by your NetWare users and construct
client-specific or Linux equivalents for
search paths, drive mappings, and so on.
You can set up permanent drive mappings
for Windows clients of Linux systems via
Samba by using the “Map Drive” icon in the
“My Computer” dialog and marking these
connections as “Reconnect at login.” This
largely does away with the need for the
MAP commands that were used to map NetWare
drives to specific drive letters in versions
of NetWare before 5.0.

If you’re using NetWare as a centralized
print server via NDPS or its predecessor,
older queue-based printing, you can easily
migrate your print services to Linux using
Samba. Linux printer-configuration tools
such as Red Hat’s printtool make it
easy to connect and enable printers on
Linux systems. Linux printers are
automatically queue-based because of the
multiuser nature of Linux. Once you have
your printers working on Linux, you only
need to enable printer support in the
Samba configuration file on your Linux server
(adding load printers = yes and
correctly completing the [printers]
section should do it), and you’re ready to
print once you update the printer destination
information on all of your clients.

Archiving Applications For Linux and Popular
NetWare Clients

Common versions of zip for DOS
and Windows clients are pkzip and
WinZip, both freely available in
nagware demo versions on the Web. Depending on
which Linux distribution you’re using, the
zip and unzip programs may
or may not be installed when you install
Linux. For example, these programs are not
part of the standard Red Hat Linux
distribution. If necessary, you can locate
and retrieve the Linux versions of these
programs for various Linux distributions
from a central source such as
http://www.whichrpm.com. Once you’ve obtained
a version of zip and unzip for
your Linux distribution, you install them
using the appropriate installer for your
Linux distribution, such as the rpm
command on Red Hat, Mandrake, and SUSE
Linux distributions, dpkg on Debian
distributions, turbopkg on TurboLinux
distributions, pkgtool on SlackWare
distributions, and so on.

Reconfiguring NetWare Clients for the Linux Server

The final stage in migrating NetWare users to a Linux server is to ensure that all of the protocols necessary for accessing the Linux server for each type of client are installed, are configured correctly, and are active on each client. Existing NetWare DOS and Windows clients will already support the IPX/SPX protocol (which you can remove once your migration is complete), but may not have either NetBEUI or TCP/IP installed. Retrofitting these protocols to older systems may prove a problem if you can’t come up with the installation disks for older systems or find them on the Web. In such cases, moving to a Linux server may be a good opportunity to upgrade older systems.

If you’re updating Windows clients, you’ll want to make sure that each client has the proper drive mappings, typically done via Samba. As you map directories to drive letters, mark each of them “Reconnect at login” so that your former NetWare users will see the same letter-to-drive mappings that they saw when they used NetWare. In the same vein, you will want to change the “Primary Network Logon” from any Novell NetWare client to “Client for Microsoft Networks” so that your former NetWare users now authenticate to the Windows networking supported by Samba rather than to the former NetWare server and networking environment. If you’re updating Macintosh clients, you will need to configure CAP or netatalk to provide the correct drive mappings.

If you’re replacing NetWare print services with Linux, you’ll also need to reconfigure the printer destinations on your client systems. On Windows clients that are accessing files and printers through Samba, this is as simple as modifying the properties of your printer drivers to print to a network printer of the form \\linux-server\printer-name.


NetWare may be an evolutionary dead end, but Novell isn’t tossing in the towel just yet. The rise of complex networked environments raises some interesting issues in interoperable administration and resource location. As historical experts in network systems administration, Novell is addressing these issues with their Novell Directory Service (NDS) product. NDS is a powerful, highly scalable mechanism for quickly locating files, directories, and other resources on a network. In conjunction with the Light-Weight Directory Access protocol (LDAP) that is being developed to help manage networked resources, NDS may just be the savior of generations of system administrators to come. Novell has also learned some things from the demise of proprietary solutions such as NetWare — versions of NDS are already freely available for many operating systems, including Linux. Much of the source code for NDS has already been released in open source form — not only encouraging its adoption, but endearing NDS to a new generation of system administrators with different expectations of the products that they depend on.

Improving the Performance of Your Linux Server

After you actually move your NetWare data to Linux and begin using your Linux system as a server, you may be able to increase performance by creating separate partitions on your Linux system for some sets of your former NetWare data. To do this, use Linux’s fdisk command to create new partitions and then use the Linux tar or cp commands to recursively copy specific directories to the new partitions (type man tar or man cp for more details). You can then mount the new partitions appropriately and obtain better performance because the partitions that house specific applications and data aren’t significantly affected as your users access other files and directories on the migrated system.


The mantra for many computing environments is “Don’t Fix It If It’s Not Broken.” which is an excellent bit of practical advice. Unfortunately, the folksy corollary to this hi-tech fortune cookie is “When it does break, users will start screaming, and your life will be hell until it’s fixed.”

NetWare provides an excellent, high-performance networking solution that unfortunately has “end of life” written all over it. On the other hand, Linux’s star is clearly on the rise, and its power, flexibility, and intrinsic network interoperability provides a great open-source base for solving proprietary networking problems before they occur.

As outlined in this article, migrating NetWare clients and servers to a more easily administered and open environment requires some planning, a fair bit of analysis of why you use Novell, and some careful migration of users, groups, files, directories, and volumes. Why not be a hero in advance?


This article focuses on porting NetWare environments to Linux, but it can really only scratch the surface. Here are some places to go for more information:

Caldera eServer
(includes a high-performance NetWare client and other NetWare products for Linux):

Novell Client Software Built Into Linux
Working with NetWare:


NetWare for Linux:

Linux on the LAN:


(NetWare migration software; NetWare Tools and Servers for Linux). Timpanogas provides custom tools for migrating NetWare systems to Linux in a variety of different ways. While powerful, these tools are fairly opaque and come with no external documentation. Powerful tools, but only for wizards and masochists.

Home: http://www.timpanogas.com/

Download: http://www.timpanogas.com/free_downloads.html

Download: http://www.timpanogas.com/catalog.html

Bill von Hagen is president of Move2Linux.com, with specializes in porting mainframe and midrange COBOL applications to Linux. He can be reached at wvh@movetolinux.com.

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