MIGRATORY PATTERNS - Part Two

by Wayne M. Krakau - Chicago Computer Guide, June 1996

This article continues with coverage of NetWare’s "Across the Wire - Different Server" method of migrating from a NetWare 3.x server to a NetWare 4.1 server. Since this process starts with a "clean" installation of NetWare 4.1, much of this information is also applicable to a completely new installation.

Before you install NetWare 4.1 on the new server, you must plan the installation. Version 4.1 is much more sensitive to filling the SYS volume than its predecessors, so a volume-creation strategy is needed. ("SYS" is always the name of the first disk volume defined in a NetWare server.)

First, decide what you want on the underlying DOS partition. (NetWare needs DOS to start.) You’ll need enough space for the initialization files for NetWare, DOS, and whatever utilities you want. I’ve found that it is very handy to have diagnostic utilities on the DOS partition in case of an emergency. It is definitely not fun to fumble around with floppy disks or CDs in an attempt to fix a downed server while panicked users yell at you.

It’s also handy to have a backup program loaded on the DOS partition. The single-user version of the network backup software you use is the best choice. That way, you can back up the DOS partition to the server’s attached tape drive using the same software interface and hardware that you are used to. (This is assuming your tape drive is attached to the server - the most efficient arrangement.) In my initial visits to new clients I almost never encounter a server that has had its DOS partition backed up. Having that backup available can greatly reduce the time needed to reconstruct a badly crashed server.

You also have to keep in mind that if your server ever ABENDs (abnormally ends), and you need to dump the memory so it can be analyzed, you will need disk storage space equal to the size of your total RAM - and you may need the results of more than one ABEND for comparison. To avoid trying to get all of that data onto floppies, I leave as much extra on the DOS partition as I can spare.

Initially, for a 64MB RAM server, I used a 200MB DOS partition as a good compromise. Later, I realized that all of the systems that I sold had an IDE disk interface either built into the motherboard or as part of an Input/Output (serial, parallel, etc.) cards. Many RAID systems can’t boot off the RAID drives. Even for those systems with bootable SCSI drives, it’s a waste of space and somewhat more complicated to create a DOS partition. You have to split the disk manually, so you can’t even use the preconfigured DOS partition that comes installed on most computers.

If you use the IDE disk that came bundled and preconfigured with many computers, you eliminate the extra labor. It also makes your system slightly more fault tolerant. If the SCSI drives malfunction, you have a head start on installation since your DOS partition might still be intact on the IDE drive. This gives you not only the base NetWare files, but also any updates and fixes that you have installed on that DOS partition. An added benefit is that if you choose to use a fault tolerance method that I have suggested for years, having a workstation/secondary file server (a workstation that is set up to be used as the file server if the primary file server fails), it makes it easier to make the primary and secondary servers similar.

If the IDE drive malfunctions, any available IDE drive could be cannibalized to use in the server. All you need is DOS and the single-user version of the tape backup software (along with a valid backup tape) to get your system up and running.

The NetWare partition can be split as needed. You need to set aside enough space for SYS to handle those programs that insist on putting files on that volume, plus a little extra for safety. In NetWare 4.1, print queues can be placed on any volume, so, if the migration is handled correctly, you won’t have to worry about an errant print job running away and filling SYS.

After SYS, you can create other volumes as needed and name them what you want, preferably something logical. There are two schools of thought on whether to create one large volume or several smaller ones. I usually use one large volume since maintenance is easier and it eventually uses fewer drive letters (which affects both network efficiency and maintainability) when viewed from a workstation. (I’ll save a debate on this issue for another article.)

Regardless of how many volumes you create after SYS, leave some extra space completely unallocated within your NetWare partition, just in case something happens and SYS gets filled. There is a copy of the INSTALL NLM (NetWare Loadable Module) on the DOS partition. With that program, you can add the extra, unallocated space to the SYS volume, immediately fixing your full SYS (at least once - you can’t easily get that space back out of SYS). I usually leave at least 50MB unallocated.

During the installation process, make sure that you check off the option to copy the migration files. You can copy them manually, after the fact, but it’s easier to let the INSTALL program do it for you.

The final preparation step is to use CompuServe, the Internet, Novell’s Network Support Encyclopedia (NSE), or various manufacturers’ bulletin board systems to get updated files. I’ve been known to tell people to keep SERVER.EXE and throw away the rest of NetWare. At times, that was not too far from the truth. These days, depending on the particular hardware and software you use, you may still have several megabytes worth of files to update. For the Novell files, I’ve found that using my NSE Professional Edition as the base and following up with a scan of Novell’s NETWIRE (on CompuServe) as the easiest method. NSE Pro’s files always lag slightly behind NETWIRE, so it’s always best to cross-check for newer files. The most accurate way to make sure you’ve got the latest files is to download PATLST.TXT. It contains a complete list of the latest files.

Next month we’ll get to the meat of the issue - that actual migration.

1996, Wayne M. Krakau