PROVO, UTAH -- Customers may be tired by now of hearing about Novell's 64-bit software plans, but the company has a few surprises in store this week.
Novell says it actually will ship a 64-bit edition of its Internet Caching System before it rolls out a 64-bit network operating system replete with file, print and directory services. Among the other surprises is that Novell is undecided about whether the company will even use the NetWare name for any of its new modular 64-bit offerings, of which a slew are reportedly planned.
The company has been discussing a 64-bit network operating system code-named Modesto for nearly two years while waiting for Intel to ship its Itanium processor. The processor, formerly known as Merced, is now slated to ship in mid-2000.
Other 64-bit systems Novell is the sixth operating system vendor in the last month to demonstrate a 64bit operating system on recently available Itanium prototypes, following Sun's Solaris, IBM's and The Santa Cruz Operation's 64-bit Monterey, Hewlett-Packard's
HP-UX, the 64-bit Linux port (dubbed Trillian), and Microsoft's Windows 2000.
While these vendors are testing operating system versions that users may easily recognize, Novell is testing a stripped-down operating system, consisting of a kernel and a single service.
Novell's 64-bit software "is a brand-new set of code that is happening from scratch to exploit all the parallel features in the Intel Itanium processor," says Phil Karren, product line manager for NetWare at Novell. "We started out with a [minimal] operating system kernel and a caching service."
Novell's plan is to build more modular software that can be developed faster and introduced in smaller chunks. Services such as caching and directories will be able to tap directly into the stripped-down 64-bit operating system instead of running on top of a general services layer, reducing overhead and increasing performance.
Developers of Modesto software will also be able to use C/C++ tools and a Java Virtual Machine, which is expected to boost the performance of applications running on a 64-bit Web application server.
Novell will not immediately introduce a general-purpose 64-bit network operating system with file, print, directory and security services. But when it does, Novell expects that the network operating system will be backward-compatible with already installed versions of NetWare.
Advantage for larger users
The significance of a 64-bit network operating system is "bigger, better, faster," says Bob Sakakeeny of Aberdeen Group in Boston.
The advantages of faster processing and more scalability for applications such as caching or directory services will appeal to large corporate network users, ISPs and ASPs dealing with data- and transaction-intensive Web-based applications.
Traditionally, Novell has not been considered an applications server vendor and has not had the tools for Web application development.
Jamie Lewis of The Burton Group in Midvale, Utah, says that while NetWare trails Solaris, Windows NT and Linux by substantial margins in the Web application server space, Novell's future success may be in non-NetWare caching applications or
high-end directory appliances, both applications that require very fast, scalable 64-bit platforms.