Migrating from E-Directory to Active Directory


Why should you migrate from E-Directory to Active Directory?

There are many legacy networks that are still running Novell E-Directory in their environment. Time to time as a CIO, IT Manager or IT Coordinator you may ask yourself these questions:

  • Should I migrate from E-Directory to Active Directory?
  • Is the cost of migration is justifiable?”
  • Is Microsoft Active directory actually better than Novell eDirectory?
  • What savings, if any, could I be making here?

This article discusses the reasons why you may find it beneficial to migrate away from your eDirectory environment and implement a Microsoft Active Directory one.

The short answer to our first question is yes you should migrate from E-Directory to Active Directory. Now let’s look at why…

Most of the people working on and in charge of networks running Novell technology are those who started their career at the time when Novell was the standard others wanted to achieve. However, like everything in IT, things never stay the same. Technology advances and competitors learn. Today Novell is not the standard that you should use as your benchmark. If you’re in charge of medium to large enterprise Microsoft may be the answer to many of your problems.

Lack of development
Novell has not made much improvement for their directory service since Windows NT and NetWare times. The underlying mechanism are still based on LDAP, the console to manage the environment is a disaster (iManager for most things and ConsoleOne if you run GroupWise 2012 or earlier). There are not many compatible products out in the market that work seamlessly with Novell eDirectory or GroupWise. Novells solution to this is building products such as ZENworks and GroupWise 2014 to become “Directory Agnostic” so that they work better in AD environments.

Ultimately the problem with this is that its not the company itself that has driven change. It’s customer demand. How many times have you, as a Novell engineer/IT Manager/CIO, looked for a product that works seamlessly with the GroupWise client? Think about TAPI and MAPI integrations for database apps, phone systems and records management systems. Its seamless with the Outlook client and third party developers will keep it in mind when creating their product. Ask anyone at that company you’re purchasing the software from about GroupWise compatibility and they’ll just laugh saying “Wow…GroupWise? Not sure about that one. Don’t think so, sorry.”

Whilst the email client itself has some cool features that Outlook doesn’t (message status in the properties is the best), its not enough for customers not to demand more. No one develops for GroupWise, so you can’t offer better services to your users. This is just one small example of how the lack of development has made your life harder then it needed to be.

The only development I have seen in recent years has been to back end services that IT use. There have been a couple of products of late that have given new services, but these have really just been re-adding a value-add back to the Novell portfolio after dropping them years ago (iFolder back then, Filr now)

Licensing Cost
Probably one of the first things you will look at in your ROI calculations is the upfront licensing costs.

First you need to identify if you can avoid Microsoft server products completely in your network? The most likely answer is “No” This is because there are many products that are running in your server room/datacentre that rely on a Windows OS such as specialist databases (small accounts databases, membership database and other internal web applications etc.

If you are running VMware ESX or MS Hyper V in your environment, most likely you’re using a Windows Server Data Center license and if you aren’t it may be a good idea to consult with someone on your licensing needs.

Here is an example of a company running a 3 hosts cluster with VMware.
The company’s cost for their Novell licensing for 170 staff was AU$42,000 per year for the following;

• E-Directory
• GroupWise
• ZENworks Suite
• SLES Servers
• GroupWise Mobility services
• Old NetWare server (for eGuide because an updated product never came out, see “Lack Of Development above)
• Application Virtualisation
• Support

Now let’s look at the additional licensing cost to migrate to Active Directory.

• The CAL cost is around AU$110.
• The total cost of licensing for the Datacentre licensing across the 3 ESX hosts mentioned above is approx. AU$10,000
• CALs for users is approx. AU$ 18,000 dollar after some vendor bidding

So far we are at AU$28,000. Under the Open Value Subscription you get the following:

• Active Directory CAL
• Share Point
• Lync
• Exchange
• Windows Servers

Once you add the local taxes on top the annual cost is AU$30,000. The company in question stands to save AU$12,000 just in licensing costs alone.

Maintenance cost
In my experience it is always expensive to maintain a Novell network compared to Microsoft. There are a few key reasons for this:

• Not many people in the market learn Novell products or do the certifications. This means it is difficult to fill vacant positions and that support from vendors is extremely limited. These factors have caused Novell technology to become more of a “Specialist” field rather than an accepted norm for IT Pro’s to work with.

• Novell networks are traditionally complex. When something breaks you can spend an absurd amount of time diagnosing the problem. This is mostly due to complexity caused by using a number of different products to achieve the functionality needed for the business, therefore requiring additional effort in troubleshooting. Compare this to a Microsoft environment that provides same functionality using the built in OS tools.

Lets look at both of these points in one example- How many Citrix vendors do you know that can work with a Novell environment? The answer for most readers– None.

To implement Citrix you need to first setup Novell Directory Services for Windows (on a new server) and CIFS on your file server. Then trick Citrix into thinking it is authenticating against AD and use CIFS shares to map your drives. It sounds simple, but this setup does not provide the same functionality compared to Citrix deployed in a Windows environment but it does introduce additional complexity and servers that will increase troubleshooting time in the event of a failure at some stage in their life cycle.

Have you tried to setup a roaming profile that works while the user is unplugged from the network in an E-Directory environment?

Have you ever tried to introduce an MDM solution in your Novell environment?

The answer to both of these questions is probably “Yes”. The unfortunate outcome for most people is that you didn’t succeed.

You probably tried roaming profiles when you first introduced laptops in your environment and realised this is not as simple as it supposed to be. Heck, it even has issues when the user is connected to the network permanently via a desktop. Profiles get corrupted all the time and users get frustrated because their desktop icons and favourites aren’t available anymore because they’ve been logged in with a temporary profile.

If you are tired of troubleshooting roaming profile and synchronisation issues try using Microsoft profile redirection with offline file sync option and you will realise that life don’t have to be difficult.

You probably went looking for an MDM solution and came across hundreds of great products. But the problem is, they all rely on an Active-Sync Gateway and don’t work natively with GroupWise. What did you have to do to get it to work? Install the GroupWise Data Sync product that acts as your Active-Sync gateway, add users to it, then point your MDM to that to sync mail. Now you’re managing users in 2 separate products (MDM solution and Data Sync), added another server on top of your originally intended MDM product, increasing complexity and recovery time from failures.

Running Novell technologies means living in isolation. Most vendors don’t like Novell, they don’t develop products that works with Novell and therefore you will either not have much choice, and or you will pay big bucks for things that should be simple and easy like a good proxy server, phone system integration and so on.

Don’t live in the dark corner you are better of joining the 21st century technology.

Whilst almost every vendor can integrate their product with the LDAP technology at play in your eDirectory environment, that’s as far as they’ll go. Why would they spend time developing integrations for GroupWise when the market uses Outlook/Exchange?

I guarantee you that almost every company that requires some sort of compatibility with something has an Identity Management platform in place which sync’s all the info from eDirectory to AD because AD was what Product X worked with.

If you are in Novell environment be prepared for implementing a new server with a new product to introduce functionality that Microsoft servers provide natively using built in tools.

For example if you require good looking HTML report to view inside of your network shares, such as duplicate file, user quotas etc. you can do that using File Server Resource Manager (FSRM) at no cost but if you are running Novell environment you need additional product (such as File Reporter) to read meta data and store the storage information. The larger your environment, the more distributed the reporting server installation needs to be (for example, database on one server, reporting server on another)
For further examples, see the Citrix and MDM scenarios given earlier.

This article is not meant to discourage those running Novell environments, however it is providing some of the points to assist you in answering the questions posed at the start of this article. If you have the technical resources available in a cost effective manner to meet business requirements, then you are ahead of the field. For the rest of you who can’t meet your business requirements without adding unnecessary complexity and want to keep it cost effective, then do the following:
Google “How to migrate from E-Directory to Active Directory” you will see many, many links. Google “Migrate from GroupWise to Exchange” and see how many results come up.
Now reverse that and Google “Active Directory to E-Directory migration” and “Migrate Exchange to GroupWise” and see what comes up.

There is your answer.

As for the questions you may have been asking yourself about looking in to migrating. I think you now have something to think about.

In my experience it is cost effective in long run to move away from Novell, many consultants will provide you the quotes for migration including some expensive tools, that may have a huge impact on your decision to proceed or not. But if you are running an environment with less than 500 people you don’t need fancy tools to migrate. I have completed migrations without the down time or expensive cost associated with tools such as Dell Migration Manager.

By no means am I ignoring the fact that migration software offers some handy tools that can make life easier but when it comes to cost it may not be compulsory to buy them for your environment. I will discuss my approach for SMB “How to perform a cost effective migration” in my next post.



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