Local Area Network Technology: Part 7 - Network Operating Systems (NOS)

by Jeff Carrell, Electronic Communications Chairman

Network Operating Systems are basically defined as the core operating system (hardware and software) that run on the LAN, of which there are basically two types: Server NOS and Peer-to-Peer NOS.

Server NOS (aka dedicated server)

The Server NOS runs on a central computer system called the file server, that provides storage all of the client data files, print queuing and printer sharing, data security, data backups, and shared network applications services for LAN connected clients. This can also afford the clients to be less powerful PCs, while still performing the jobs for which they are intended.

Network Operating Systems are analogous to operating systems like MSDOS or OS/2 or Windows 95, but they are designed to support multitasking, which allows the file server to perform multiple/independent tasks at the same time. One process may be retrieving a file, another request may be processing data movement between the local network and the wide area network, and yet another task may be printing files. The NOS is a very important part of a smooth operating LAN.

Peer-to-Peer NOS (aka nondedicated server)

Some folks argue that they don't want all their "eggs in one basket", and prefer to distribute the data and services around the network. The Peer-to-Peer network design solves this particular concern. In this case, the network is simply the sum of all the parts. Each workstation has data, some workstations "share" or make their hard drives available to others on the LAN, and even some others share their locally attached printers on the LAN for others. Although this makes for an easier to assemble network, there is very little physical security or data security available, and if someone is using your shared resource, your PC's performance is impacted.

There are occasions where some networks start out as peer-to-peer, but evolve into a client/server model. The primary difference is that a server NOS is not used, the network still operates on the peer level.

Examples of some Network Operating Systems:
Server NOSPeer-to-Peer NOS
Novell NetWareMicrosoft Windows for Workgroups
Microsoft Windows NTMicrosoft Windows 95
Banyan VinesLANtastic
AppleShareNovell Personal NetWare
IBM LAN Server
Microsoft Msnet
3Com 3+ Share / 3+ Open


LAN Local Area Network

Multitasking multiple jobs performed on a single processor

NOS Network Operating System

Copyright © 1997 Jeffrey L. Carrell. All Rights Reserved