Network Operating System Features, requirements, models and topologies.
We continue our look into the world of the Network Operating System (NOS) with an examination of the standard features, services, general support features and some special purpose features found across the board in today’s network operating system.
What are a Network Operating System’s Features?
Every network operating system has a number of functionalities and features in common with every other network operating system. The manner of their implementation is where the major differences lay. Below I have listed some of these features, services, support and capabilities.
Network Operating System Basic Services and Features
The basic feature sets are very hardware oriented. These include support for CPU(s), Protocols, Automatic Hardware Detection, Network Interface Cards (NIC) which should come as no surprise and support for multiprocessing of applications.
Today we also need to concern ourselves with support for multiple core CPUs and multi multi-core CPU support. Even bottom-end server offerings come with the features and capacity to install multiple multi-core processors.
Memory support is another big consideration. In this area, the 64-bit network operating system support features leap ahead of the 32-bit network operating system. The 32-bit NOS can only address up to 4 GB whereas the 64-bit versions support considerably larger physical memory arrays.
Network Operating System Security Services and Features
The network operating system is very heavily network oriented as you might expect and this translates into the provision of features with far greater security awareness and natively supported security features then a general-purpose workstation, desktop or mobile platform operating system does.
Authentication, authorisation, logon regulation and access control are all “must have” security features that the security conscious network operating system cannot do without today.
Network Operating System Name & Directory Services and Features
These core and very basic networking functionalities and features are at the bare minimum involved with logical naming and addressing structures that every network operating system must have. Without them, a network operating system is useless at fulfilling any of its intended roles especially the security capabilities we all demand today.
Network Operating System Core Services and Features
Some of the basic “server roles” features that a network operating system is usually capable of fulfilling include file & common file system support, Distributed File System (DFS) support, printer and print server support, web server and web support services, back-up and replication services and some basic security services.
Network Operating System Resource Sharing Service and Features
A network operating system also has the capabilities of “sharing” services such as database, applications, files serving services, print server resources management and allocation, processing resources, storage assets and resources and many more.
Network Operating System Networking and Internetworking Support Features
Basic routing, Local Area Networking (LAN) and Wide Area Networking (WAN) support are all necessary for today’s network operating systems.
Network Operating System User Management Services and Features
Logon, logoff, remote access, system management, administration, auditing tools, & GUIs are all functions that a network operating system of today will natively support. Many of these are bundled into the directory services category by some NOS today.
With the capabilities of the modern processor, we are seeing a return to a more centralized distributed form of computing. Examples of this include the new terminal services and virtualisation technologies that are such a huge buzzword today.
Network Operating System Clustering Capabilities, Services and Features
Fault tolerance & high availability systems have long been the network operating system’s bread and butter. It is through superior robustness and versatility in adversity, which network operating systems have always delivered right from the get-go that set them apart from the “general-purpose” and multi-purpose operating systems.
Traditionally server platforms provide the greatest stability with the maximum redundancy of features to ensure the greatest failover and single-point-of-failure protection value for money possible. Clustering and load sharing are two key elements of this ethos, which rely heavily upon the capabilities of a networking operating system for support.
Network Operating System Communications Services and Features
It is the role of the network operating system to provide many automatic administrative and general-purpose network housekeeping type functions. These include:
- Network messages e.g. machine-to-machine messages such as authentication requests
- Operator assist visual cues such as reminders to the human operator that they need to logon before getting underway
- All round traffic & queue management functions such as print queue management which is something most users are only semi-aware of
- Security duties
- Updating and patching, system restore, user data backup and restore functionalities
- Auditing and accounting services
- Logging, event notification and warning services
- Scheduling, batching and automation
- Resources, processes, threads, handles and services management and allocation
- As well as a whole host of other administrative & housekeeping functions & aspects of a network
Network Operating System (NOS) Deployment Scenarios
Common Network Operating Systems deployment scenarios are in Local Area Networks (LAN), Metropolitan Area Networks (MAN), Wide Area Networks (WAN) and Internetworking.
Network Operating Systems and the OSI Reference Model
The core functionalities provided by network operating systems come courtesy of the upper five layers of the OSI Reference Model – the application, presentation, session, transport and network layers.
This holds true for Ethernet based networks because the physical and data link layers are directly associated with the Ethernet hardware (the firmware of the NIC, the NIC and the transmission medium).
This is the reason why Ethernet networks are not operating system dependant. The operating system will supply the appropriate incarnation of the TCP/IP protocol stack and generally some generic hardware drivers, which most Ethernet compliant NIC (at least the Realtek™ 1394 compliant varieties) seem to be happy to work with.
All versions of Microsoft Windows® come with generic drivers that are suitable for the Realtek™ 1394 compliant NIC. Yes, this does include Windows® Vista. The non-compliant species of NIC and some chipset-integrated solutions seem to be at the heart of the Windows® Vista’s network driver issues. Note I said non-compliant not incompatible. There is a big difference.
Network Operating System Models
To keep things simple we will look at computer networks from the fundamentalist perspective where we can say that there are two models for networks:
- The peer-to-peer network
- The client/server network
It is from here that the fun and games will begin when we will pick up the story in the next article “Network Operating System Models” by having a look at what goodies; each brings to the networking party. Until then enjoy!