NTAS: Interesting Technology, Never Quite Amazing, Though

ntadsvrLike most LAN Manager sites, Siemens Solar Industries knew it eventually would have to upgrade to Windows NT Advanced Server. Although Microsoft Corp. has not announced plans to discontinue the LAN Manager networking platform, the bulk of its future development is going into NT Advanced Server.

So when Microsoft shipped its Windows NTAS upgrade kit for LAN Manager late last year, David Johnson, PC specialist at Render Global, decided it was time for a pilot project.

The project, a collaborative effort between Johnson, his staff, and PC Week Labs, was a success. The solar energy equipment manufacturer’s test server was upgraded without requiring Johnson to re-enter configuration data such as accounts and passwords, access- control lists, auditing settings, and replication settings.

On the flip side, the pilot upgrade could have been smoother; a few settings, such as auditing, had to be made manually on the server, and some diagnostics — including warnings of CRC failures — could have been more informative. But, having found these glitches, Johnson said he feels better prepared for the actual upgrade.

Although Johnson was pleased with the kit, he plans to wait for NTAS to mature before deploying it across Siemens’ Camarillo, Calif., production network.

“I’m waiting to hear more about the next release, which provides more of the utilities I’ve grown accustomed to with LAN Manager,” Johnson said, referring to features such as administration from Windows 3.1 workstations. “Right now, the remote administration utilities require NT clients.”

Microsoft’s “Windows NT Advanced Server for Microsoft LAN Manager Upgrade Guide” was our bible during the project. The document describes techniques for upgrading in place and cloning.

Upgrading in place involves installing NTAS on a LAN Manager server and preserving its configuration information. Cloning describes dumping configuration information from a LAN Manager Server to an NTAS server.

The Upgrade Guide includes flowcharts that describe the entire upgrade process. Although we had to traverse five pages of arrows and boxes, everything was explained clearly, and we found the documentation to be very good.

Microsoft recommends cloning because it is more robust and enables users to upgrade without jeopardizing their existing servers. But Johnson’s budget was strained already by the prospect of adding enough RAM to his servers to run NTAS efficiently.

On the other hand, Johnson couldn’t afford to jeopardize Siemens’ installed servers by using them in the pilot project. Most of the company’s manufacturing process-control software runs on Hewlett-Packard Co. minicomputers, but the LAN Manager servers are critical to business.

“If the network goes down, we have a real problem,” Johnson explained.

Thus, for the pilot project, PC Week obtained a Pentium-equipped Compaq Computer Corp. ProLiant server with enough RAM and storage to run NTAS. We set this up as a LAN Manager server to test the upgrade-in-place method on a non-critical server.

After installing OS/2 1.3 and LAN Manager 2.2 on that machine, we configured it as a backup domain controller on Johnson’s production network and waited for the other LAN Manager servers to download configuration data.

We then set up a directory structure duplicating much of Siemens Solar’s primary domain controller, including access-control lists, and some functions such as auditing.

We also enabled replication on the Compaq server in a configuration to match Siemens’ other servers. After carefully documenting the configuration of the server, we set out to do the upgrade, hoping to preserve our settings and configuration.

Minor stumbles en route to success

In the end, we saw some error messages, but the server seemed to be up and running. Unfortunately, it was not announcing itself to LAN Manager clients.

A call to Microsoft engineers produced a solution. Their first suggestion — changing a parameter in the registry — solved the problem, but was more difficult than necessary. They later pointed out a check-off in the network control panel for “Announce to LAN Manager clients,” a pretty painless way to fix the problem.

Of course, the problem should not have occurred in the first place — the upgrade kit should have taken care of it — but it didn’t seriously hamper the upgrade.

After we got the server up and running, we verified the environment and configuration of the NTAS server. Users and groups were transferred successfully, but the access-control lists were changed slightly to reflect the different settings available. Nevertheless, in our judgment, the mapping was appropriate.

The upgrade preserved auditing settings, but the NTAS system did not enable auditing. After we manually enabled auditing, settings for particular directories went into effect with no trouble.

Replication settings also were preserved, although a different default directory for replication produced warning messages that could have been clearer.

We were worried about warnings in log files about cyclical redundancy check failures and file-size changes, but Microsoft assured us that these error messages were harmless — and, in fact, unavoidable when certain files were in use during the upgrade process. The upgrade utilities should have recognized the situation and filtered out those warnings, but again, it wasn’t a major problem.

In terms of resources, Johnson will have to make sure he has plenty of spare disk space to perform the actual NTAS upgrade on his LAN Manager servers. In addition to the 10 percent free space required to convert a LAN Manager volume to NTAS, data must be backed up to another server during the upgrade, and log files and configuration data files must be created. Cloning, however, does not require additional disk space because the NTAS is configured as such from the start.

“I think it will be a pretty easy upgrade based on the utilities I’ve seen,” Johnson said. “It’s a vast improvement over previous LAN Manager upgrades.”

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 Uncategorized

Leave a Reply