Where NetWare Fits

NetWare 6.5 still holds top honors in one server niche. Even though it is a 32-bit operating system. That niche is the "large file-server" segment. I define "large" as, "lots of data, way-lots of concurrent users". Yeah, that's highly scientific. But "way-lots" means "over 1000 concurrent" to my thinking.

We regularly run between 1200-6000 concurrent connections on our cluster nodes. This is a density that just doesn't happen all that often in the market. If you have 6000 users close enough together to all talk to the same file-server at LAN speeds using a protocol designed for file-serving (such as NCP, SMB/CIFS, or AFP), you're a big organization. 6000 is a large corporate campus, a large governmental entity of some kind, or a larger .EDU like us. Nationally, the number of 'large' file-servers like that is peanuts compared to the number of 'workgroup' (i.e. under 300 concurrent users) servers out there.

It is therefore no surprise to me that Novell is not devoting a lot of engineering to supporting the top end of this market. While it may pay well, there just isn't enough revenue coming from these customers to try and handle the hardest-to-test use-case: very high concurrency. I find it disappointing because I AM one of those customers (a larger .EDU), but I understand the business drivers supporting the decision.

For the moment, NetWare 6.5 (32bit) is the top-dog performance wise for our environment. That isn't going to stay true for much longer. It would not surprise me to find out that a Windows Enterprise Server (x86_64) with 16GB of RAM can out-perform a NetWare 6.5 (32bit) server with 4GB of RAM, simply due to the added room for a file-cache. What I don't know is how CPU-bound file-serving I/O is on a Windows Enterprise Server, that's the one area that could keep NetWare 6.5 (32bit) on top. I already know that OES2-Linux out-performs NetWare for NCP traffic, so long as you stay within CPU bounds.

For high-concurrency applications, as far as I know NetWare still wins.