[MD+F Multimedia News Reader]
First Looks: Warp Server for e-business, Beta- by Lief Clennon
OS/2 e-Zine!

Go to a Printer Friendly version of this page

Lief Clennon is a computer hobbyist and Team OS/2 member currently residing in Albuquerque, NM. He can usually be found badgering his friends on IRC.

Blast Back! Send a private message directly to Lief Clennon with your thoughts:

Contact OS/2 e-Zine!

Summary: Many are wishfully thinking that Aurora might perform just as well on a client machine as it does on the servers it was designed for. In this first look at the Warp Server for e-business beta (codenamed Aurora), we examine it from the client user's point of view.

I'm writing this in tedit on the OS/2 Warp Server for e-business beta version 4.5. This is a miracle in and of itself, as I am apparently the only OS/2 e-Zine! staff member who has successfully installed Aurora, and it took me three tries to do that. Of course, beta is beta, and the documentation is quite adamant about this package not being suitable for a production environment. Needless to say it has been quite disappointing so far, considering the usual quality of OS/2 betas.

Enough griping, what's new?

To be honest, very little has changed, especially on the surface. Since I don't have a LAN I can't investigate the administration tools; and on the client side it's just Warp 4 with a few tune-ups under the hood. In fact, typing 'ver' on the command line reports "OS/2 version 4.50", rather than a "version 5."

There have been a few modifications to the install procedure. The "fonts" option now only allows you to select Unicode and/or several special native-language fonts (Japanese, Arabic, etc.), while Helvetica, Times, and Courier are installed no matter what. One note of interest there, is that the TrueType fonts installed for WinOS/2 (Arial, etc.) are now automatically available to OS/2 sessions as well. Other than that, the main difference is that installation of networking features is a good deal smoother, and Netscape Communicator is installed transparently as part of the main TCP/IP setup.

Differences in the interface are few and far between. You'll note the lack of screenshots accompanying this review; PM and WPS are entirely unchanged since Warp 4 and the only real visual change is the startup screen seen during boot (.GIF, 40k).

Some of the tabs in the "Properties" dialogs have been moved around, and a notable tab has been added to the end of the list for program objects: "Language" allows you to select an individual locale and codepage for each program. Other than that... well, the WarpCenter defaults to being on the bottom of the screen now, Win95-style. (I rapidly moved it back to the top.) Also, and I sincerely hope this is an aspect of the beta and not of the finished product, the Scheme Palette is gone and there's no replacement that I've found.

LVM, JFS and more Alphabet Soup

The one really big addition is the Logical Volume Manager, and it's quite possibly the saving grace that makes this upgrade worthwhile. To understand LVM, the first thing you have to do is recognize the difference between a partition (a section of your hard drive, or often the entire disk) and a volume (a filesystem structure with a drive letter). For Unix users this is not a problem; LVM is essentially an implementation of the Unix filesystem concept under OS/2.

LVM allows you to create a volume that is completely independent of partitions; If your SCSI chain has five 3-gigabyte hard drives, you're perfectly capable of creating a single C: volume, with 15 gigabytes of storage. Alternately, a single one of those hard drives can have three 1G volumes, without partitioning it: the advantage here is that when you want to move things around, you don't have to repartition and destroy data.

Furthermore, you don't even have to have a C:, since LVM allows you to assign your own drive letters. This capability extends to 'compatibility' volumes, which follow the DOS-style "partition = volume" formula and include any volume that existed before you installed Aurora. Non-fixed-disk drive letters are still assigned in the old fashion, with A: and B: being dedicated to floppies and anything else being tacked on wherever it fits. You can still control their placement to an extent, though; by creating volumes H: and I: for Aurora, I was able to keep my CD-ROM on G: as it is for my regular copy of Warp 4.

I mentioned earlier that all your existing partitions will be 'compatibility' partitions in LVM's eye. Unfortunately, so will one of your new ones: IBM has not yet added the capability to boot from an LVM volume. I'm not entirely sure why not; it would be a trivial modification to the Boot Manager to make it work like a Unix loader. But they didn't, and since the slick new JFS filesystem can only be used on LVM volumes, you'll still be using HPFS (or FAT) to boot from.

As for the JFS or Journaling Filesystem itself, my observations show that it is currently not faster than HPFS for regular tasks. In fact, in the few tests I've performed, it's significantly slower, although of course not nearly as bad as FAT*. The advantage of JFS lies entirely in crash-recovery, which is far faster and far more reliable than other filesystems. It's so fast, in fact, that at boot time OS/2 runs a full CHKDSK on every JFS volume, which goes faster than the cursory check run on HPFS volumes to see if they need to have CHKDSK run.

The Journaling filesystem works by keeping a record of every write to the hard drive and theoretically should perform faster than HPFS. It keeps the read/write head physically hovering over a dedicated journal track. When the data to be written to the disk is sent to the drive, the head is already positioned to immediately write a journal entry, followed by the actual data. The written data is then moved to a more permanent location during idle time. If the system crashes before it completes this job, the data is still written, still intact, and a journal of the pre-crash activity is available for the filesystem to consult and pick-up where it left off. This is where it gets its rapid and powerful crash-recovery traits from.

* Editor's note: While we had planned to have a complete benchmark analysis of the JFS filesystem for this issue, Aurora was found to be too unstable at this time to produce any reliable results.

Final thoughts

All in all, my opinions are very mixed. Aurora does not look as if it will be a good choice for the client. After all, it issupposed to be a server, and it's only the geek-appeal of its LVM, JFS and support for Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP) that makes us yern to put it to use on a client machine. From what I've seen of the more upscale features, though, this is quite an impressive server package; I only wish I could test those features myself. However, I'm taking solace in the fact that the version number is 4.5: if they do put out a version 5, we can probably expect some major improvements. LVM, which warranted the half-a-version increase, is in and of itself a far larger change than the entire Win95-to-Win98 "upgrade." I can only speculate that a final "5.0" release of OS/2, server or client, will be considerably better improved.

Copyright © 1998 - Falcon Networking ISSN 1203-5696
December 1, 1998