David Strom

Corstream Server doesn't live up to its claims

By David Strom

I had great hopes for Artisoft's first forray into the world of dedicated network servers, a

product they call CorStream Server. In the box is a run-time version of Novell's NetWare

4.01 operating system along with additional software to turn NetWare into a Lantastic server.

And for what the company promises will be a limited time, included in the box is a NE3200

Extended Industry Standard Architecture Ethernet adapter made by the company's Eagle

Technology division. All of this is sold for less than the retail price of a version of NetWare

4 sold by Novell.

It sounds great, but I found the level of integration severely lacking between the Artisoft and

the Novell sides of the house. Installing the server software is troubling, more troubling than

installing a peer Lantastic server on your typical DOS or Windows workstation. And this is

why I don't think this product is quite ready for the enterprise, even with the attractive price

and bundling options.

Let me go back in time a bit and give you some history of Artisoft and Lantastic. The

company made its mark with a peer-to-peer operating system that was easy to use, easy to

setup, and worked on a variety of network adapters. They always had lots of close ties to

Novell in a variety of ways, including the fact that they now own Eagle, which makes the

popular NE line of Ethernet adapters that once were a hardware division of Novell many

years ago.

Many of Artisoft's customers wanted dedicated servers and CorStream is their response.

Rather than try to re-invent the wheel, they used NetWare 4 as the basic technology and

proceeded to build a series of NetWare Loadable Modules (NLMS) that would run their

Lantastic server software on top of NetWare. It sounds good in theory. In practice, getting

this server to work is very difficult.

Normally, I am not a big one to harp on installation woes, but I focus on them for CorStream

because I believe this product is being touted as an easy-to-setup dedicated server. It is not. It

is an easy-to-setup NetWare 4 server. That may be damning them with faint praise, but I want

to point out the significance. I've installed NetWare 4 about six times on a variety of different

equipment and a variety of different ways. The Artisoft method worked far and beyond better

than anything else I've tried: it took less than an hour to get my Dell Pentium box up and

running a real version of NetWare 4: that is a very noteworthy acheivement.

What Artisoft has done to make things easier is to strip out most of the Novell command-line

utilities and other flotsam and jetsam to get down to eight diskettes for the entire NetWare

install. That is fewer disks than have been packaged with NetWare for many years. They also

include a CD in the package, which has the entire NetWare 4.01 operating system files

(indeed, as far as I could tell, it is the same exact CD you would get if you buy the "real"


So, if you stop here you have a darn fine product: a NetWare 4 server that you can bring up

quickly and costs less than the "real" versions you get from those Platinum resellers. You can

even use CorStream to run other NLMs, such as the Macintosh file and print services and

NetWare management services, although Artisoft hasn't certified these to work with its NLM

quite yet. But what all this means is that CorStream is a good solution for those corporations

that want to role out NetWare 4 servers in their branch offices and are looking for

pre-packaged solutions. To give you an idea on the comparative costs, the retail price from

Novell for a 5-user version is $1395, and that doesn't include an NE3200 adapter, which will

set you back another few hundred. (Most of the resellers I've seen sell this at close to $800)

Compare to the price of CorStream ($949 retail, which includes the adapter) and you've got a


However, if you try to integrate the NetWare and Lantastic products, the picture becomes less

clear. This is the main issue: Novell and Artisoft didn't really do their homework on this


Installation took several days and tech support calls to figure out what was wrong. First off, I

had thought that after I went through the initial install of NetWare 4, all the server software

would be copied on to my Dell server. Not true: while NetWare has a very robust add-on

product installation routine (it is used for installing things like NetWare for Mac support and

NetWare Global MHS), Artisoft didn't (or couldn't, if you believe their representatives) use it:

instead, after you bring up a working NetWare 4 server you then must go connect a

workstation and run a very arcane setup routine which proceeds to copy more files to the

server. Plan on having the workstation nearby the server, because you will be running back

and forth to do various tasks. It is confusing, it is time consuming, and it is plain ridiculous.

This needs to be fixed, and fixed fast. Besides, I thought networking was supposed to

eliminate sneaker-net, not promote it.

Being an old NetWare hand, one of the things I know is to treat my license diskettes with

lots of reverence and respect. This is because they contain a hidden key serial number: no two

NetWare servers on the same network can have the same number. Artisoft's installation

routine writes files to this diskette, something that makes me extremely nervous.

Another problem with the integration is that the default frame type for CorStream is Ethernet

II. I don't want to get too far off track, but realize that there are four basic frame types that

NetWare supports: NetWare 3.x defaults to 802.3, 4.x defaults to 802.2, NetWare Mac uses

Ethernet SNAP, and then many Unix packet drivers and other products use the fourth,

Ethernet II. CorStream only supports one frame type for its Lantastic clients (by the way

these must be running at least version 5 software), but if you load the others you can support

traditional NetWare clients as well. 

A competant NetWare administrator should be able to load support for all four types on a

NetWare server, but that's not the market for this product: we are talking about beginners (or

at least beginners in the NetWare arena), and multiple frame types is not something I'd

recommend for them to learn right off the bat. 

The problem is Novell's licensing arrangement, according to Artisoft. Novell wouldn't let

CorStream use the 802.2 (or even 802.3) frame types and stuck them with Ethernet II. Pity,

because this makes the product much more complex. It would be nice if the manual would

document the fact that CorStream will only run with Ethernet II frames (if you want it to talk

to other Lantastic clients) as well, something I found out only after talking to tech support.

Okay, so you begin to see what I mean about the tortured installation process. The last straw

for me was a separate CORSTRM.NCF file that holds the various Lantastic server settings.

This is a plain text file and has a similar purpose to Novell's AUTOEXEC.NCF startup file.

However, unlike Novell's file you can't edit it at the server's console easily (unless you

happen to know how to load the EDIT.NLM, Novell's text editor), which means more running

back and forth between workstation and server. Ugh.

Once you get all this working, you've got another Lantastic server on your network: it just

happens to be hiding out as a NetWare server underneath it all. 

Those of you that are running Lantastic peer networks that are running out of gas should

consider CorStream to get a powerful Lantastic server that just happens to be built on top of

NetWare. And those of you that are considering buying NetWare 4 for the branch offices

should also consider what you get with CorStream is more flexibility for less money than you

can do with Novell itself. And in the meantime, maybe Artisoft will fix the installation

process so that it doesn't take a PhD. in computer science to figure it all out.

Vital Stats:

Artisoft's CorStream Server v1.0

shipping since July

five-user pricing: $949 (server software and one NE3200 adapter) 

     $1149 (also includes Lantastic client software)

(other versions supporting 10, 25, 50 and 100 users are also available:

CorStream without v6.0 clients              with LANtastic v6.0 clients

10 User     $1849                           $2249

25 User     $2999                           $3649

50 User     $3899                           $4899

100 User    $5699                           $6999)

Ready for the Enterprise: DOWN, installation is tough and NetWare interoperability is lacking

UP: An easy-to-install stripped-down version of NetWare 4 is included in the package

DOWN: Getting this server to work with a mixed NetWare and Lantastic network won't be


Competitive analysis:

UP: Worth looking at for the NetWare 4 server alone, given the price tag (Novell's list for

5-users is $1395, although many dealers sell it for around $800)  

Test bed:

A Dell Poweredge SP560 PCI Pentium server with 8 megabytes of RAM running

CorStream/NetWare 4 connected via Ethernet to a variety of clone 386/486 DOS and

Windows PCs running either NetWare or Lantastic client software. Note: CorStream is only

compatible with version 5 or later of Lantastic clients and requires at least 8 megabytes of

RAM on a 386 or better server.

Vendor info:

Artisoft, Inc.

2202 N Forbes Blvd

Tucson AZ 85745

602 670 7100

602 670 7101 (fax)


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David Strom David Strom Port Washington, NY 11050 USA US TEL: 1 (516) 944-3407