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Network+ TechNotes: Netware OS and Protocols

Novell Netware

Novell developed Netware in the early 1980s, based on the Xerox Network System, as a network operation system to provide file and printer sharing and mail functionality using client-server architecture. Netware servers used to be very popular, and can still be found in many corporate networks today. After having focused solely on the server market for ages, Novell now also offers a client operating system called SuSe, which, similar to Apple’s move to UNIX, is just another Linux flavor.

A once very popular version of Netware is version 3.12, which later became ‘millennium proof’ as version 3.2. NetWare operating systems prior to NetWare 4 relied on the bindery. The NetWare bindery kept server-specific user and group information in a flat file, which every network server maintained independent of the bindery on other servers; hence, there was no relationship between objects. The bindery relied heavily on the Service Advertising Protocol to advertise its resources to clients.

In Netware version 4, Novell introduced the Netware Directory Services (NDS), which allows network resources to be grouped together and organized in a hierarchical way, so they can be easily located and administered. NDS uses the same concept as Microsoft's Active Directory. Before version 4, Netware clients needed to be configured with a preferred server to handle the logon authentication request, Netware clients version 4.x and up need to be configured with a Tree and Context.

Netware servers support Netware Loadable Modules (NLMs) , which are software modules that can be added to provide additional functionality.

GroupWise is a popular groupware server and client that provides email and other groupware services, similar to a combination of MS Exchange Server and Outlook.

The required services and protocols for allowing other operating systems to communicate with Novell Netware servers depend heavily on the Netware version. NWLINK is Microsoft's implementation of IPX/SPX that allows Windows clients to communicate with older Netware servers that run IPX/SPX. For Netware 5 and up, you can simply use TCP/IP.

Netware Protocol Suite

Although current versions of Novell Netware use TCP/IP, before Netware version 5 IPX was the protocol in Netware networks. The Netware protocol suite consists of several protocols for different functions, the most important being IPX and SPX. IPX is similar to the Internet Protocol from the TCP/IP suite, it is a connectionless Layer 3 (Network layer) protocol used to transfer datagrams between hosts and networks. SPX is the Transport protocol used to provide reliable transport for IPX datagrams, similar as TCP does for IP. IPX/SPX networks support a maximum of approximately 300 hosts per segment. Next, we will further outline the Netware protocols in correlation to the 7-layer OSI model. Netware protocols and services are defined at the 5 upper layers, but Novell created their own version of an Ethernet frame format for the Data Link layer (Layer 2) as well. Besides Ethernet, IPX/SPX can run over a variety of network technologies such as Token Ring, FDDI and PPP WAN connections.

The frame type, which refers to the format of the layer 2 frame in which the IPX packet is encapsulated when it flows down the OSI model, must match between two network nodes to enable communication without a router. IPX can use several frame formats, of which the two most important are listed in the following table.

Frame Format

Frame Type

Netware Versions

Novell 802.3 raw


Default frame type for Netware 3.11 and earlier. Supports only IPX/SPX as the upper layer protocol

IEEE 802.3


Default frame type for Netware 3.12 and 4.x. The main difference with Novell's 802.3 format is the addition of LLC field, which specifies the upper-layer protocol, such as IPX or IP.

At the Network layer, 4 key protocols are defined:

Internet Packet Exchange (IPX)

A connectionless datagram protocol providing best-effort delivery and layer 3 addressing. Similar to the function of IP.

Netware Routing Information Protocol (RIP)

Allows IPX routers to exchange information and build their routing tables. The routing tables contain entries of possible routes in the network and their attributes. Netware RIP routers broadcast their routing table to neighboring routers every 60 seconds.

Netware Link-State Protocol (NLSP)

A more advance routing protocol with the same purpose as RIP, but typically used in larger IPX internetworks.


Used to negotiate options for an IPX link when a new physical connection is established.

At the Transport layer the transport protocol in Netware networks is defined:

Sequenced Packet Exchange (SPX)

A connection-oriented protocol providing reliable transport services for the delivery of IPX datagrams. Similar to the function of TCP.

At the Session layer, the next 3 protocols are defined:

Service Advertising Protocol (SAP)

Used by network resources such as file and print servers to advertise the services they provide and at which IPX address they can be reached. This occurs every 60 seconds. SAP is mainly used in Netware networks before version 4. In Novell Netware version 4 and above network resources are typically located using the NDS.


Although not really a Netware protocol, Novell adapted this protocol to allow NetBIOS communication between a Netware server and Windows clients.

A key part of Novell Netware networking is the Netware Core Protocol (NCP). This protocol operates on the upper three layers of the OSI-model, and provides services to client redirectors such as the Netware Shell. Services include file and printer access, security and name services.

Some of the most important Application layer services are the Message-Handling Services (MHS), a simple electronic messaging system, and NDS, Novell's directory services.

IPX Addressing

A complete IPX network address is 80 bits in length and is represented in a hexadecimal format. As with all routable protocols it needs a network and a host portion, the network portion is 32 bits in length and is manually configured. The host portion is 48 bits in length and is derived from the MAC address of the host's network interface.

Examples of full IPX internetwork addresses are:
- 0CC001D8.0050.BF61.6C71
- 0000ABBA.0060.9736.954B
- 00000046.0060.E92A.C2A4

Data send to an address of which the network portion is 0 (zero), is meant for the local network. Hence, this number cannot be used when configuring network addresses. The IPX broadcast address is FFFFFFFFFFFF.

To identify an unique connection when multiple processes are communicating over IPX addresses can also include a socket, which is a 16-bit number appended at the end of the IPX address, for example: 0CC001D8.0050.BF61.6C71.322

Each Netware host that provides server services, including as a Netware server, a NWLINK client sharing resources, or those that act as a router, needs an internal network number. This logical IPX address is not present on the physical network, and issued on only local to the server.

Current related exam objectives for the Network+ exam:

2.4 Differentiate between the following network protocols in terms of routing, addressing schemes, interoperability and naming conventions:
- IPX / SPX (Internetwork Packet Exchange / Sequence Packet Exchange)

3.1 Identify the basic capabilities (For example: client support, interoperability, authentication, file and print services, application support and security) of the following server operating systems to access network resources:
- Netware

3.2 Identify the basic capabilities needed for client workstations to connect to and use network resources (For example: media, network protocols and peer and server services).

3.4 Given a remote connectivity scenario comprised of a protocol, an authentication scheme, and physical connectivity, configure the connection. Includes connection to the following servers:
- Netware

4.5 Given a troubleshooting scenario between a client and the following server environments, identify the cause of a stated problem:
- Netware

Click here for the complete list of exam objectives.

Discuss this TechNote here Author: Johan Hiemstra


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