Novell's InnerWeb: Could a NetWare-Based Intranet Do All This for Your Company?
Articles and Tips:
01 Nov 1998
Editor's Note: Could an intranet improve your company's communications and actually save employees time and effort? After implementing an intranet for these very reasons, Novell Inc. shares its experience and shows how its own technologies have made the Novell intranet a success.
In the spring of 1995, internal publications manager Beth Black and the other members of Novell's electronic marketing department proposed building an intranet to improve internal communications. Their idea was well-received by Black's supervisor, and in September 1995, the electronic marketing group launched InnerWeb, Novell's intranet. (You can view an online demonstration of InnerWeb at http://www.novell.com/demos/intranet.)
Initially, the electronic marketing group had difficulty recruiting readers and content publishers for InnerWeb. Novice Internet surfers were not particularly eager to learn to navigate yet another program, and many experienced Internet surfers were members of Novell groups that had already set up their own World-Wide Web servers. These groups were not especially interested in posting content on InnerWeb. Other Novell groups had to be convinced that dedicating resources to web publishing would eventually save time and money.
Because of these challenges, it took a little time for Novell employees to fully embrace InnerWeb. In fact, "it's taken almost three years to build a culture around InnerWeb," says Black, who is now the content manager for InnerWeb and a member of the intranet management team. InnerWeb's primary web server statistics support Black's claim: In January 1996, just four months after its launch date, InnerWeb had 240,000 hits per week on its primary web server. One year later, InnerWeb had nearly quadrupled that number with 800,000 hits per week. And last January, InnerWeb's primary web server had 4 million hits per week.
Members of the intranet management team agree that employees would probably have accepted InnerWeb more quickly if the team had in 1995 the Novell technology it has now. Initially, InnerWeb's primary web server was a UnixWare box. This server now runs NetWare 4.11 and, before the end of this year, will run NetWare 5.
Using NetWare has made publishing to and managing InnerWeb noticeably easier, not to mention faster. (For a comparison between the UnixWare-based InnerWeb and the NetWare-based InnerWeb, see "Now That's An Intranet!" ) This marked improvement comes as no surprise to Kevin Millecam, senior manager of Novell's intranet management team, who believes familiarity with NetWare alone makes intranet life a little easier. "When your background is NetWare," Millecam explains, "the smart thing to do is to plug your web initiatives in to what you already have--NetWare."
PLUGGING IN TO NETWARE
Not surprisingly, Novell did the smart thing: That is, Novell plugged in to its long-established NetWare network to build InnerWeb. InnerWeb is a collection of NetWare 4.11 and NetWare 5 servers and one Windows NT 4.0 server. (See Figure 1.) InnerWeb also relies on several BorderManager 3.0 servers at key locations on Novell's WAN to accelerate users' access to InnerWeb. Novell's Information Systems&Technology (IS&T) department manages these BorderManager servers, which are located in Provo, Utah; Orem, Utah; San Jose, California; and Capelle, Holland. In addition, network administrators at other sites on Novell's WAN set up and manage their own BorderManager servers to accelerate access to InnerWeb for users in those offices.
Figure 1: The infrastructure of Novell's InnerWeb
On the BorderManager servers for which IS&T is responsible, Novell's IS&T department has enabled BorderManager's HTTP accelerator. When you enable the HTTP accelerator on a BorderManager server, BorderManager stores objects that users request from internal web sites in its local cache--a feature sometimes calledreverse caching.
With the HTTP accelerators enabled, the InnerWeb BorderManager servers accelerate users' access to InnerWeb information and reduce traffic on InnerWeb's primary web servers. How? When a browser requests an object that has already been requested, that object is sitting in a BorderManager server's local cache, ready to be sent to the browser in an instant. Thus, the BorderManager server returns the object quickly and without burdening the web server with redundant requests.
THE HEART OF INNERWEB
At the heart of InnerWeb are two primary web servers:
Origin web server
Secure web server
The hardware and software for both of these web servers are nearly identical. Both web servers are Compaq ProLiant 3000s, each one equipped with one Intel 300 MHz Pentium II processor, 512 MB of RAM, and six 9.1 GB hard drives. Both web servers are responsible for delivering static and dynamic InnerWeb content to the BorderManager servers. Finally, both web servers run Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare 3.05, an enterprise-strength web and application server that allows companies to manage and publish Internet and intranet information and to deploy network-centric applications.
The Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare 3.05 is fast. In fact, it is arguably the fastest web server available. Last April, Novell announced that Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare 3.05 had broken the speed record for single-processor web servers measured by the industry-standard SPECweb96 benchmark. The tested, record-breaking solution, which is identical to the solution InnerWeb was running when this article was being written, included a NetWare 4.11 server running Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare 3.05 on a Compaq ProLiant 3000 with one Intel 300 MHz Pentium II Processor.
The tested solution also included a front-end--a BorderManager server on which the HTTP accelerator had been enabled. This tested solution was able to process 1,639 operations per second, topping the performance of all single-processor web servers submitted to date for SPECweb96 benchmarking, including leading UNIX and Windows NT solutions.
Despite the obvious similarities, the origin web server and secure web server are not identical (as their names suggest). The origin web server is a "public" web server, and the secure web server is a "private" web server. That is, Novell's IS&T department has enabled Novell Directory Services (NDS) authentication on the secure web server but has not enabled NDS authentication on the origin web server.
Because NDS authentication has not been enabled on the origin web server, users don't have to be authenticated to the Novell network to access information stored on this server. All a user needs to connect to InnerWeb's origin web server, explains InnerWeb webmaster Brett Spackman, "is to be inside the Novell firewall--meaning that the workstation's IP address falls within a range that Novell allows for internal use." Thus, users could log in to their workstation without logging in to the network and still be able to access content on the origin web server.
In contrast, because NDS authentication has been enabled on the secure web server, only Novell employees who have been authenticated to the Novell network can view information stored on this server. Furthermore, users can view only the information to which they have rights.
These two primary web servers are crucial to InnerWeb; if they fail, InnerWeb fails. To protect these servers, Novell's IS&T department uses the beta version of Novell Replication Services 1.21 to maintain a mirror image of both the origin web server and the secure web server on a replica server, called therecovery server. (See Figure 1.) Novell Replication Services is a replication management tool that allows you to selectively replicate files from one server to other servers in the same NDS tree. (For more information about Novell Replication Services, see the white paper at http://www.novell.com/whitepapers/nrs/whitepaper.html.) If the primary web servers fail, file requests are automatically redirected to the recovery server. In other words, Novell Replication Services ensures that InnerWeb never misses a hit.
DISTRIBUTING THE APPLICATION WORKLOAD
Rather than overburden the origin web server and the secure web server with a lot of processor-intensive applications, Novell's IS&T department distributed most of the larger applications to three application servers:
Two Java application servers running on NetWare 4.11
One Windows NT 4.0 application server
Housed on two Compaq ProLiant 6000s, the Java application servers run Tengah Java application server software, a product from WebLogic Inc. Basically, Tengah Java application server provides the tools Novell engineers need to build commercial-grade Java applications. In addition, these two servers run Novell's Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Novell's JVM is a set of NetWare Loadable Modules (NLMs) that interprets and executes Java scripts running on NetWare 4.11 or NetWare 5 servers.
The Java application servers handle connections to InnerWeb's data-base management system, which is a NetWare 5 server running Oracle8 for NetWare. Because InnerWeb is "a heavily hit site," web architect Brian Holman explains, Novell's IS&T department distributed much of the application work on to the Java application servers. As a result, the primary web servers act as a kind of gateway between users' browsers and processor-intensive Java-based applications. The Java application servers, not the web servers, handle connections to InnerWeb's database management system. "The output," Holman explains, "is sent back to the primary web servers through RMI."
Remote Method Invocation (RMI) is a Java technology that enables a Java program running on one computer to access the objects and methods of another Java program running on another computer. Holman compares RMI to Remote Procedure Call (RPC): RPC enables you to have source code that appears to be calling a local function when the source code is actually calling a function on a remote server. "That's basically what RMI does," explains Holman.
The Windows NT 4.0 application server runs Netscape Enterprise Server 3.0 and NDS for NT 2.0 on a Compaq Proliant 6500 with two Intel Pentium Pro processors, 512 MB of RAM, and five 9.1 GB hard drives. If you are surprised that Novell has a Windows NT 4.0 server, you shouldn't be. "Some applications were written only for Windows NT," explains Millecam. Besides, he adds, "most of our customers work in mixed NetWare and Windows NT environments. The more we know about how each of these platforms work, the better we'll be able to make them work together for our customers."
Novell's IS&T department runs only RealNetworks' RealServer 5.01 intranet version on the Windows NT 4.0 application server. RealServer 5.01 does not run on NetWare. RealServer 5.01 enables Novell to post streaming audio and streaming video files on InnerWeb. Novell's IS&T department stores the streaming audio and video files in InnerWeb's Webcast Library, in which Novell employees can find and retrieve the files to see and listen or listen only to live or prerecorded events. (For more information about webcasts, see "Live From Novell--Any Day or Night of the Week.")
Approximately 4,600 Novell employees in more than 40 countries access InnerWeb using Netscape Communicator and the TCP/IP stack that comes with Windows 95. Spackman estimates that between 85 and 90 percent of Novell employees use version 4.0 of Netscape Communicator; most of the remaining 10 percent use version 3.0.
Novell employees use HTTP to access InnerWeb sites over established network links. At the Provo office, where InnerWeb is physically located, users' InnerWeb requests travel anywhere from 100 Mbit/s to 1,000 Mbit/s across Fast Ethernet links to the InnerWeb servers, which are attached to a Gigabit Ethernet backbone. Remote users access InnerWeb over corporate WAN links, which range anywhere from an atypical 56 kbit/s link (from a sales office, for example) to a T1 or T3 connection.
INNERWEB'S GOT EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK
When Novell employees access InnerWeb, what kind of information can they find? The information posted on InnerWeb includes "just about everything," says Kathy Frandsen, manager of publications for Novell's internal communications. "Everything," she clarifies, that will help "all of our employees feel like they're part of what's going on" at Novell.
Naturally, "everything" includes company-related news, which Frandsen updates daily. InnerWeb's home page features links to news stories, which cover anything from the dates and times of upcoming company-wide power outages, to news about which products and product versions Novell just shipped, to news about Novell's corporate strategy. In addition, InnerWeb features regional news, such as news about events to which Novell employees in the San Jose, Provo, or Orem offices can buy discount tickets. To advertise these news stories, Frandsen sends a GroupWise e-mail message to all Novell employees, summarizing the leading news stories. (For more information about InnerWeb's home page, see "The Evolution of InnerWeb's Home Page: Keeping It Light and Loadable.")
In a nutshell, InnerWeb includes all the information employees of a major corporation might need or want to know. For example, InnerWeb publishes the following information:
Novell stock reports, which are updated every two minutes
A list of job openings within the company
Links to Novell employees' personal home pages
Corporate-wide policies and procedures
Links to the Novell product catalog
Links to public-press articles that highlight Novell
Barter boards from which employees can buy, rent, or sell cars, home furnishings, and real estate
Ride boards to catch a lift or pick up a rider between Utah and California
The following InnerWeb sites are particularly useful to Novell employees:
How To @ Novell
Searching for Eric, Drew, Glenn, Or Anyone Else Who Works At Novell
Figure 2: The Corporate Directory contains detailed information about each Novell employee, including job responsibilities, department, supervisor, e-mail address, and telephone number.
Using the Corporate Directory, an employee can search for an employee using only a first name or a department name. Whatever limited information an employee might enter as the search criteria, the InnerWeb origin web server passes along the query to the database management system, which returns results to the origin web server. In turn, the origin web server passes the results to the employee's browser.
For example, if an employee entered "Linda," the origin web server would return a list of all the Lindas in the company, sorted according to department. If an employee entered a department name, the web server would return a list of all the employees in that department. Each name in a list links to more information, including the employee's e-mail address, mail stop, NDS context, job responsibilities, supervisor, and work team.
Although this information had always been stored on Novell's network, few employees knew where to find the information. "The cool thing about the Corporate Directory," says Millecam, "is that it brought this personnel information to the surface for everyone to see and correct." When the Corporate Directory came online in January 1997, the intranet management team was inundated with telephone calls from employees who were complaining that the information in the Corporate Directory was wrong. "In reality," Millecam explains, "that information had been wrong for years. It's just that no one knew that information was there." Through the InnerWeb, employees were able to view and correct personnel information.
How to Book the Novell Corporate Jet
Just as the Corporate Directory helps Novell employees find people, How To @ Novell helps Novell employees find corporate procedures. (See Figure 3.) How To @ Novell is a library of corporate procedures that answer questions such as the following:
Figure 3: If Novell employees need to get a new access card, order office supplies, or contact payroll, How To @ Novell explains how to accomplish the task.
"How do I get a name plate for my office door?"
"How do I get a new telephone?"
"How do I get office furniture?"
"How do I book a seat on the corporate jet?"
Before the creation of the InnerWeb's How To @ Novell library, a group of Novell administrative assistants, called theAdmin Council,published a hard-copy document containing corporate procedures. This group then distributed the hard-copy document to all of the administrative assistants in the company. Of course, the hard-copy document was often out-of-date before it was even printed and distributed, and the Admin Council had to print updates frequently.
Millecam's intranet management team suggested an alternative: The Admin Council could publish corporate procedures on the InnerWeb, rather than printing and updating the hard-copy document. When the Admin Council agreed, the intranet management team helped the council create How To @ Novell, helped train the content providers, and gave them rights to publish directly to InnerWeb.
The Admin Council continues to manage the content of How To @ Novell, but the actual content providers are distributed throughout the company. Because the content providers for How To @ Novell have rights to publish to InnerWeb and are trained to do so, each content provider can publish and update the procedure for which he or she is responsible. For example, the person in charge of ensuring that employees get the furniture they need can publish and update the procedures for doing so, and the person in charge of scheduling the corporate jet can publish and update the procedures for doing so.
How To @ Novell has several advantages over its hard-copy counterpart:
How To @ Novell is available to all Novell employees regardless of where they are located, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
How To @ Novell is accurate because content providers are responsible for publishing procedures about which they are most familiar.
How To @ Novell is up-to-date because its content providers can update the information anytime and as often as necessary.
Live From Novell--Any Day or Night of the Week
The intranet management team also maintains InnerWeb's Webcast Library, which contains streaming audio and video files. Novell employees need only RealNetworks' RealPlayer Plus 5.0 to listen to the audio files and to view the video files. (The Webcast Library includes a link to a Novell web site that explains how to download RealPlayer Plus.)
Novell webcasts include live and prerecorded keynote addresses (from BrainShare, COMDEX, and other noteworthy IT events), interviews, training sessions, question-and-answer forums, and reports. For example, Novell Live is a live webcast featuring a member of Novell's senior management reporting the company's quarterly financial results. On August 20, for example, Novell Live featured Dr. Eric Schmidt, Novell Chairman and CEO, reporting the company's third quarter financial results.
Webcasts also include live broadcasts of Novell Town Council, a question-and-answer forum in which employees are invited to ask Schmidt questions. The Town Council videos, like Novell Live and other live events, are archived so that employees who miss the live version can watch the video.
Without webcasts on the InnerWeb, Novell employees might have missed important keynote addresses during BrainShare '98 in Salt Lake City. To reduce the number of Novell employees attending BrainShare, the Novell events team schedules conference rooms at Novell offices and feeds live keynote addresses to these rooms by satellite. This year, however, the satellite feed experienced technical difficulties on Monday morning during a keynote address featuring Schmidt; Christopher Stone, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development; and Glenn Ricart, chief technology officer.
Fortunately, this year Novell had a backup plan. Millecam explains, "We decided to supplement the video-conferencing service with a webcast of each keynote to users' desktops." Some of the employees who had gone to the conference rooms simply went back to their desks and watched the keynote session live from their own desktop. Other employees later watched the archived version.
The Novell events team fixed the satellite problems before the Wednesday and Friday BrainShare keynote addresses, but at that point, conference-room attendance was sparse. "I think a lot of people decided that webcasting had some obvious advantages," Millecam says.
WHAT DOES A NETWARE-BASED INTRANET HAVE THAT OTHER INTRANETS DON'T?
InnerWeb applications and content are obviously interesting and useful to Novell employees. However, applications and useful content can be provided by intranets built on other operating systems and technologies. What makes a NetWare-based intranet especially great? Lots of things, actually, but four things in particular:
With NDS, You Won't Go Back in Time
As a NetWare administrator, you are no doubt familiar with NDS and know how it benefits a network and WAN. These same benefits apply to an intranet: As a distributed database that can be replicated across your intranet, NDS makes a NetWare-based intranet more convenient to manage than intranets based on other operating systems. In fact, Black believes the "ease of administration" afforded by NDS is the most significant advantage of a NetWare-based intranet.
When NDS is the foundation of your company's intranet, no one person (or team) needs to bear the burden of managing the entire intranet because NDS enables distributed management: Using the NetWare Administrator (NWADMIN) utility, you can assign other employees administrative rights to various intranet servers or to particular directories on an intranet server.
In addition, with NDS, the location of the InnerWeb server and employees with supervisor rights makes no difference: For example, you could grant an employee in the Seattle, Washington office rights to manage the web server in Savannah, Georgia. No other intranet operating system enables this level of distributed administration. In fact, choosing another operating system for your company's intranet, such as a UNIX operating system, requires you to step back in time to the days of server-by-server management.
Because InnerWeb is based on NetWare and, therefore, NDS, the intranet management team does not bear the intranet management burden alone. Granted, the intranet management team is ultimately responsible for the overall health of InnerWeb, but through NetWare's file-level security and NDS, members of that team are able to share their workload with others. As a result, says Spackman, "things are a lot easier for us because we don't have to manage all 700 or 800 directories on the web server. We manage the top-level stuff," he says, "and then delegate the management of directories and subdirectories."
You Can Publish on a NetWare-Based Intranet Anytime and From Anywhere
As mentioned earlier, the intranet management team members can assign other Novell employees supervisor rights to particular directories on the origin web server. These newly made InnerWeb supervisors can then assign other employees rights to files or subdirectories that are within the directory to which the supervisors have rights.
Distributing publishing rights ensures that InnerWeb content is accurate and up-to-date. Employees within particular Novell departments (for example, human resources, internal communications, and accounts payable) have the rights to publish information about that department and can update that information as often as necessary. In other words, the information on InnerWeb is first-hand information--not information passed from one person to the next until the information finally makes its less-than-accurate and less-than-current way onto the intranet.
Approximately 200 employees publish to InnerWeb. These InnerWeb content providers include the following:
The intranet management team, which has rights to publish anywhere on InnerWeb
The internal communications group, which has rights to publish to the InnerWeb home page
Content providers in various Novell departments, who are responsible for pages to which there are links on the InnerWeb home page
Teams and individuals who use InnerWeb for project collaboration, information sharing, or just for fun
This last group includes all of the employees who publish personal home pages--an opportunity the intranet management team recently offered InnerWeb users. Publishing personal home pages "caught on like wild fire," Millecam says, adding that he (and no doubt others) have discovered that the company has some "pretty creative people." According to Millecam, more than 500 employees requested directories for personal home pages, and 200 employees published personal home pages during the first three weeks that the intranet management team made these home pages possible.
To create a personal home page, a user clicks the Personal Pages link on InnerWeb's home page and then clicks the personal home page (PHP) request form. After a user completes the PHP request form, the user's request is sent to a Java program, which creates a directory on the origin web server and grants the user rights (based on his or her NDS username and password) to create and edit files within this directory. Users then create the HTML file that will be their personal home page.
Users have several options for creating HTML files. Users who are not familiar with HTML can use Netscape Communicator's Netscape Page Wizard to create HTML files. Users who have some knowledge of HTML can choose from a variety of templates. Of course, users who know HTML very well can use any HTML editor to create HTML files.
You Won't Believe How Easy Publishing Can Be
After creating the HTML files, users are ready to publish these files to InnerWeb, and publishing to InnerWeb is a snap. Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare and NetWare itself make publishing to InnerWeb as easy as saving an HTML file to a Novell server. It really is "very, very easy," according to Lisa Price, administrative assistant for Novell's U.S. accounting department.
In most cases, InnerWeb content providers first save HTML files on the InnerWeb staging server. To create this staging server, the intranet management team used a feature of Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare calledhardware virtual hosting. This feature enables one physical server to appear as two separate servers. The staging server, which serves as a preparation and backup area, is actually a virtual server. Both the staging server and the origin web server are housed on the same physical server.
First-time publishers save an HTML file to the staging server and then notify Black that the file is ready. Black verifies that the file is appropriate for InnerWeb before enabling the first-time publisher to copy the file to a directory on the origin web server. Experienced publishers, on the other hand, can post an HTML file to the staging server and check the file themselves before copying it to the origin web server. Experienced publishers can also edit live files on the origin web server and then copy the files to the staging server for a backup.
You Can Save Time by Co-Publishing
The intranet management team and the internal communications group cooperatively publish the InnerWeb home page. Each team owns and updates its part of the page without disturbing or even having access to parts of the home page owned by the other publisher.
The intranet management team maintains the navigation bar on the left side of the home page and the banner and photo across the top of the home page. (See Figure 4.) The internal communications group is basically responsible for everything else on the home page, with the exception of the stock price, which is updated automatically. Specifically, the internal communications group handles headline news, regional news,Monday Magazine, weekly and long-term calendar items, corporate strategy pieces, and a summary of how Novell has been covered in the week's trade and business press.
Figure 4: When creating the 1998 InnerWeb home page, the InnerWeb management team tried to make the home page easier to navigate and faster to load than the 1997 InnerWeb home page.
This type of copublishing is another benefit of a NetWare-based intranet. NetWare's file-level security and NDS make it possible to assign rights to the necessary files and directories that enable copublishing. Copublishing is also made possible through the use of Server Side Includes (SSIs), supported by Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare and other web servers. You can use SSIs to insert certain variables on web pages. For example, variables can be the current date and time or text and graphics from another file.
Unfortunately, SSIs can affect the performance of a web server. The advantage of using Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare is that its performance compensates for this performance toll.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME
Any intranet can improve internal communications, assuming employees are willing to use the intranet. Beginners will probably not use an intranet if it is remotely intimidating. An intranet must be user-friendly, or employees won't use it, no matter how much information you post on the intranet.
Clearly, not all intranet operating systems are user-friendly. In fact, some are arguably user-unfriendly. UNIX, for example, attracts a virtual cult of proponents, but none are drawn to it because it is easy to use.
An intranet based on Novell technologies, on the other hand, not only makes managing an intranet easy but, more importantly, makes publishing to the intranet easy and accessing the intranet fast. Consider how some of the Novell technologies mentioned in this article contribute to InnerWeb's usability. (The technologies listed below do far more than make InnerWeb fast and easy, but that's the focus here.)
NDS makes it easy to cooperatively publish pages and to distribute the publishing burden, so no one has to bear the complete responsibility of keeping the intranet interesting, useful, and current.
Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare performs well and contributes to the notably simple InnerWeb publishing process, as does NetWare itself.
BorderManager accelerates users' access to the intranet.
Of course, this article has not covered all of the Novell technologies used on InnerWeb, and many of the technologies that have not been covered also make InnerWeb usable. For example, InnerWeb also runs the Java and HTML 3-enabled GroupWise WebAccess gateway, which enables users to access their GroupWise universal mailboxes over the intranet without launching a separate application.
The list of Novell technologies at work on InnerWeb goes on, but the point remains the same: As a NetWare-based intranet, InnerWeb is fast and easy to use. And do you know what that means? InnerWeb improves internal communications because InnerWeb gets used.
Linda Boyer Kennard works for Niche Associates, an agency that specializes in writing and editing technical documents.
NetWare Connection,November 1998, pp. 6-19
Now That's An Intranet!
In 1995, when Novell's electronic marketing group first proposed creating an intranet, Novell owned UnixWare, an application server platform based on UNIX System V. Because Novell's external web site was already based on UnixWare, the electronic marketing group sensibly chose to use the technology already in place to "kind of jumpstart the internal web site," explains Beth Black, content manager for InnerWeb.
Novell's IS&T department let the electronic marketing group take over a UnixWare web server, and InnerWeb was born--but not without a few kinks. Compared to saving files to and managing NetWare servers, publishing to and managing the UnixWare-based InnerWeb was a bit difficult.
One of the first challenges the electronic marketing group faced was to set up a publishing process that would be reasonably simple for content providers. To this end, the electronic marketing group developed a script that enabled content providers to use GroupWise to e-mail their HTML files to the UnixWare server. In the subject line of these e-mail messages, content providers typed a string of information that the server would use to place and name the HTML file attached to each GroupWise message.
Initially, content providers had to send one file at a time and had to repeat the process if they accidentally mistyped the filename, directory path, or username in the GroupWise message subject line. Although this process worked and was, in fact, relatively easy, it was also "cumbersome," says Lisa Price, administrative assistant for Novell's U.S. accounting department.
Tracking HTML files on the UnixWare server was even more cumbersome. Although content providers received an e-mail confirmation for each file they sent, the files sometimes took several minutes or even hours before actually reaching the server. Because the content providers did not have rights to the directories on the UnixWare server in which the HTML files were posted, the tracking problem was compounded. The only way content providers could determine whether or not their files had actually been published was to try opening the files later with a web browser.
Like content providers, content manager Black did not have rights to the directories on the UnixWare server. When something went wrong during the publishing process, content providers called Black for help. Black tried troubleshooting the problems for user error or network delays but often had to forward the problems to Novell's IS&T department. (Only employees in Novell's IS&T department had rights to the directories on the UnixWare server). "There were days when I spent half my time just trying to figure out what had happened to a handful of HTML files," says Black.
As more Novell employees began publishing to InnerWeb, the electronic marketing group developed other scripts and macros that enabled content providers to send multiple HTML files at one time and to view and delete these files using a browser interface. Nevertheless, because Novell employees were accustomed to managing their files and directories in a NetWare environment, the somewhat complicated process of publishing to the UnixWare-based InnerWeb discouraged some potential content providers.
In April 1998, life got a lot easier for content providers when InnerWeb was migrated to NetWare. Publishing to the NetWare-based InnerWeb requires little else than saving an HTML file to a Novell server. Because of NetWare's file-level security, content providers now have rights to the directories to which they publish their files and can open those files immediately, just as they can open any file on a Novell server, assuming they have the necessary rights.
In addition, Black now has rights to all InnerWeb directories. Consequently, when a user calls her with a publishing-related problem, Black can open the directory and file, find and explain the problem, or correct it herself. In short, managing and publishing to the NetWare-based InnerWeb is simple--just as an intranet should.
NetWare Connection, November 1998, p. 10
The Evolution of InnerWeb's Home Page: Keeping it Light and Loadable
About a year ago, Novell's intranet management team was determined to make the InnerWeb home page more interesting, attractive, and, well, cool. Although the original home page had served InnerWeb well, this page was rather bland. When Novell rolled out its new and improved home page in 1997, the page was well-received. The new home page had some style--it was cool. (To view the original home page and the 1997 home page, visit http://www.nwconnection.com.)
Over the next several months, however, InnerWeb's cool home page elicited not only compliments, but also a common complaint: The page was too big and, therefore, slow to load.
At 78 KB, the 1997 home page was admittedly overweight. But it wasn't only the file size that made the page heavy. The page also sported two Java applets. "No matter how fast your connection is," says InnerWeb webmaster Brett Spackman, "Java applets are slow to load."
The 1998 home page is also more informative. For example, corporate news was several clicks away from the original home page and the 1997 home page. In creating the 1998 home page, the intranet management team moved the daily corporate news, called Today @ Novell, along with other news items to the home page. Now users can see headlines immediately and are only one click away from the stories. Light, loadable, and informative, the 1998 home page is the best one yet.
NetWare Connection, November 1998, p. 14
* Originally published in Novell Connection Magazine
The origin of this information may be internal or external to Novell. While Novell makes all reasonable efforts to verify this information, Novell does not make explicit or implied claims to its validity.