February 11, 1998 4:00 AM PST

Novell Z.E.N. enlightens desktops

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Network software maker Novell (NOVL) will officially launch a new suite of PC management software tools next week that let users access or receive personalized applications on their Windows-based desktops.

Taking a page from proponents of network computers, Novell will use existing infrastructure software technology and a variety of new management functions to let users store the "state" of applications residing in a central database. The difference is Novell will provide these functions for PCs running Microsoft's Windows.

The company, adding a layer of management software on top of existing technology, will release an open beta version of its Z.E.N.works (Zero Effort Networks) software suite next month, as previously reported, with final shipment due in the second quarter.

What could make the new software package compelling is that Novell's directory services software, commonly known as NDS, essentially serves as an overarching database for all desktop and user data, as well as other network-related information. NDS software provides a central point for administrators and users to access network resources.

"We've kind of moved into a new space of directory-based management that no one has approached yet," said Michael Simpson, director of marketing for the company's network services division. "We're not just fixing problems. This is a whole different way of management."

Z.E.N.works is the latest step in a management strategy that will eventually result in all of the company's software elements--including GroupWise administration, NDS administration via NWAdmin, and ManageWise systems management--coming together as snap-ins to a Java-based console, code-named Houston, by the end of the year.

The Houston management framework will come with NetWare 5.0, due this summer, but executives said it will take until the end of the year to unify all of the company's administrative elements into the console.

Z.E.N.works, using NDS as a common data source, can supply desktop configuration information, offer personalized software distribution, provide desktop management, and automate tasks such as delivering mistakenly deleted files back to a user. It can also use NDS as a centralized server of desktop applications to users, if needed.

"I think Novell's done a really good job," said Jamie Lewis, president of the Burton Group. "It's finally starting to leverage NDS in a way that users can take advantage of. There's always great ways to use directories."

Z.E.N.works is the latest piece of a software strategy to highlight the company's directory technology, believed to be ahead of competitors such as Microsoft. Other elements to roll out recently include the BorderManager suite of tools and the company's port of NDS to Windows NT, Novell's primary operating system adversary.

By providing a single store for all applications, access, and policy information, users can log on to their desktop via any PC using a single password. Furthermore, executives said the directory infrastructure implemented now can be extended to new types of clients, such as NCs, once those have been deployed in production network environments.

Novell said it would also support policies found in Zero Administration Windows and the Zero Administration Kit, two components in Microsoft's strategy to lower the cost of owning PCs.

Simpson said the new desktop management tools tie everything to a user's identity. "We're breaking the physical dependency between the network devices, applications, and the PC."


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