To: AISD Network Support
From: Vernon Graner, CNE
RE: Novell NDS Structure
Date: January 22, 1998
The Novell Netware Directory Services System
This document will give a brief overview of the advantages of a Directory Service to manage campus and district networks for the AISD. I'll start with a quick overview of the characteristics of the two primary contending systems, Novell Netware 4.11& Microsoft Windows NT 4.0.
Microsoft Windows NT uses a "flat" structure where user accounts are created all at the same level. The users access is usually granted by making them members of groups. Each flat system containing the user accounts and groups (called a DOMAIN) resides on a server. These servers are designated as either Primary Domain Controller (PDC) or Backup Domain Controller. The structure is replicated between servers using "trust relationships."
Novell Netware 4.11 (also know as Intranetware) may use a flat structure as detailed above, or it can use a hierarchical system. Like NT, the users' access is usually granted by making them members of groups. The structure that contains the user accounts and groups is called Netware Directory Services (NDS) and resides on a server. Responsibility for the NDS is shared between servers using a system called partitioning.
At first glance these systems seem to be very similar. At closer inspection, the primary difference becomes obvious.
The hierarchical structure of Novell NDS allows greater security, easier administration and simple scalability.
This fact was determined by installing Windows NT at Travis High School and Novell Netware at Stephen F. Austin High School. At Travis, I used the ONLY structure currently offered by Windows NT, the flat structure. In this model, the creation of users is limited to "single plane". For example:
This doesn't appear to be a problem until you figure in the overwhelming number of accounts that need to be created. At Travis, I had: 30 students * 5 class periods * 5 rooms = 750 accounts! (Windows NT offers a non- sizeable 3 inch high window to list these accounts in!) Scrolling through this list, searching for users that belong to a specific class or class period is very difficult.
It is also notable that in actual operation, the NT server (a Dell Pentium 133 with 84 megs of RAM) became very sluggish and sometimes unresponsive when serving more than 2 classrooms full of students (Aprox 57 accounts). The monitoring tools shipped with NT indicated server load at between 80% & 100% during the login and logout procedures.
It also became clear that I could not give Administrative rights to the faculty members unless I was willing to place the entire network structure in jeopardy in the event a faculty account was "hacked." Subsequently, faculty members were unable to perform even minor administrative tasks such as creating student accounts, changing students passwords or clearing a print queue. Using the old Novell 2.15 Server with LanSchool, they were able to do all these things. The "upgrade" to Windows NT was widely viewed as a "downgrade" of capability.
At Austin High, I installed Novell Intranetware V4.11 with Novell's Netware Directory Services. I created a hierarchical structure that allowed me to divide the users into "compartments" allowing easier administration and better security. This hierarchical structure can be easily represented in a "flow chart" style diagram as shown here:
This structure makes it safe to create "Room Admins" with full supervisory rights to sub sections of the network. This is crucial to the security of the network because it limits the damage that can be done as any breach in security would be limited to the branch of the hierarchy where the "sub-administrator" has rights.
This also returned control to the faculty member since they can now create users, delete users, change passwords and control printing for their own area. Administering the network is done with a straightforward graphical tool called NWAdmin. This tool allows a full screen view of the entire network structure and all the accounts in it.
Here, we found that in actual operation, the Novell server (a Clone Pentium 133 with 32 megs of RAM) continued to server all users from 4 rooms (Aprox 120 accounts) with no noticeable degradation in speed or responsiveness. The monitoring tools shipped with Netware showed the server to be running between 4% and 18% utilization.
In theory and now through actual trials, it is my opinion that Novell Intranetware V4.11 with NDS offers the best solution for a network operating system for the AISD.