Although Windows NT and NetWare are by far the most popular network operating systems in the marketplace, they are by no means the only ones available. This lesson introduces you to some of the lesser-known operating systems, including AppleTalk, Unix, and Banyan Vines. We also take a look at using Windows for Workgroups, Windows 95 and Windows 98 configured in either peer-to-peer networks or as clients in other networks. Other choices exist in addition to those covered in this lesson; many software companies have produced peer-to-peer LAN software. Conducting an Internet search will help you locate these options.
After this lesson, you will be able to:
- Describe the circumstances in which Apple, Unix, or Banyan Vines is a suitable choice for a network operating system.
- Determine when to use a server-based or a peer-to-peer LAN.
- Describe at least two peer-to-peer LAN software packages.
Estimated lesson time: 20 minutes
The Apple network operating system is seamlessly integrated into the operating system of every computer running the Mac OS. Its first incarnation, called LocalTalk, was slow by today's standards, but it brought networking to computer users who quickly made use of it. (A serial-port form of networking, LocalTalk is still part of the Apple NOS.)
The current implementation of AppleTalk supports high-speed, peer-to-peer networking capabilities among Apple computers as well as providing interoperability with other computer and network operating systems. This interoperability is not obviously part of the Apple operating system, however. Instead, users of computers other than Apple can connect to resources on an Apple NOS most easily by means of Apple IP, Apple's implementation of the TCP/IP networking protocol. (For more information on networking protocols, see Chapter 5, "Introducing Network Standards," and Chapter 6, "Defining Network Protocols.") Apple IP allows non-Apple users to access Apple resources, such as database files.
Computers that are part of the Apple NOS can connect to other networks through services that are supplied by the manufacturers of those other NOSs and that run on their network servers. Windows NT Server, Novell NetWare, and the Linux community all provide Apple interoperability services for their respective platforms; this allows networked Apple users to make use of resources on those network servers.
The AppleTalk form of directory services employs features known as "zones." These are logical groups of networks and resources. (An AppleTalk Phase 1 network consists of no more than one zone, while a Phase 2 network can have up to 255 zones. The two are incompatible, however, and cannot be easily supported on the same network wiring.) These zones provide a means of grouping network resources into functional units.
In the current desktop-computing environment, Apple and Windows users can benefit from a high degree of application software interoperability. Productivity suites—standard applications such as spreadsheets, databases, word processors, and e-mail, for example—are often able to exchange information directly. AppleShare makes it possible for Apple computer users to share those resources with other Apple users who have been given the appropriate permission to access them. With application-level and operating system interoperability, the Apple NOS can provide full networking capabilities to clients and to other NOSs.
UNIX is a general purpose, multitasking, multiuser operating system. Two popular versions (called "flavors" by UNIX users) are Linux and Sun Microsystem's Solaris. A UNIX system is usually made up of one central computer and multiple terminals for individual users. It is a self-contained network, designed specifically for large networks, but it does have some applications for personal computers. UNIX works well on a stand-alone computer and, because of its multitasking capabilities, it also performs well in a network environment.
UNIX is highly adaptable to the client/server environment. It can be transformed into a file server by installing file-server software. Then, as a UNIX host, it can respond to requests from workstations. The file-server software becomes just one more application being run by the multitasking computer.
A client of a UNIX host can be another UNIX computer or any other computer running MS-DOS, OS/2, Microsoft Windows, or Macintosh (System 7 or 8). A file redirector will enable the workstation to store and retrieve UNIX files as if they were in its native format.
Another networking system is the Banyan Virtual Integrated Network Services (Vines). Vines is a client/server-architecture NOS derived from Xerox Corporation's Xerox Network Systems (XNS) protocols.
The current version of Banyan Vines features messaging through integration with Banyan's Intelligent Messaging and BeyondMail software. The creation and management of network services is carried out through Banyan's latest version of StreetTalk Explorer. This interface works with Windows user profiles, allowing users' settings to follow them anywhere on the network. Some other features included in Vines are:
In many offices and small businesses, there is a need for a simple peer-to-peer network. If security is not a concern and where 10 or fewer computers are located within a relatively small area, a peer-to-peer network might be the most economical option. In these networks, all workstations are equal and each can act as either a server or a client. In most cases, these networks will be sharing only files and printers. Most of the popular operating systems include the necessary software to configure a peer-to-peer network.
Windows for Workgroups (Windows 3.11) functions much like its predecessor, Windows 3.1, but includes a peer-to-peer NOS, an e-mail application, and an appointment-book application. A group of computers connected through workgroups can share printers and disk files. Only items designated as shares can be seen by other members. All other files and printers are hidden from all users except the local computer. When you share a disk directory or printer from a workstation, you give the shared resource a name to which others can refer. During the connection process, a drive letter is assigned to the shared directory and the redirector redirects the LPT port across the LAN to the correct printer.
Although Windows for Workgroups is still in use, it is unlikely that you will be called upon to install a new network based on this operating system. However, you should know how to incorporate an existing Windows for Workgroups network into a larger, more modern networking environment such as NetWare or Windows NT Server.
Windows 95 and 98 operating systems include software necessary to create a peer-to-peer network and enable sharing of printers and files.
Computers running Windows 95 or 98 will also work well as clients on Windows NT and NetWare LANs. You will have to install the respective client (requester) software. Note that users of Windows 95 and 98 cannot have the full benefit of Windows NT security features; those features require use of the NTFS file format, which is not compatible with Windows 95 or 98.
Warp Connect combines OS/2 Warp and WIN-OS/2 peer-to-peer networking capabilities. It provides peer-to-peer and client-networking capabilities that are similar to those provided by Windows for Workgroups. With Warp Connect's built-in peer-to-peer capability, you can share applications, printers, modems, and files, without installing any special hardware.
The following points summarize the main elements of this lesson: