NetWare is a network operating system
made by Novell
. It runs on Intel-compatible hardware
NetWare started with the founding of Novell in 1983. Back then, it was a simple program to share a computer's hard drive with other computers in a local area network.
Early versions of NetWare were largely the work of Drew Major and some other smart people at Novell. Until very recently, most of NetWare was written in x86 assembler for speed and other benefits. The lore is that Major himself looked over all the code. Now NetWare is written in C as well.
NetWare is not like Unix or NT. Before NetWare 5, it did not have virtual memory. It is a multitasking, multithreaded operating system (at least since NetWare 386,) anyway. NetWare has always been about getting bits from disks to the network as fast as possible. It is optimized for I/O, as they say. Newer versions, however, have more support for application development and Internet things.
Versions of NetWare before NetWare 5 were closely tied to IPX as a file and print services protocol. With NetWare 5 the NetWare Core Protocol primitives have been abstracted from IPX and can now run over IPX or IP. Most NetWare 5 LANs are probably running a bit of both.
NetWare executable files are in NetWare Loadable Module (NLM) format. Traditionally, NLMs are considered difficult to write and compile, so development has never been as popular on NetWare as on Unix or NT. This has hurt NetWare in the marketplace.
NetWare was also the first platform for NetWare Directory Services (now Novell Directory Services or NDS.) NDS, however, now runs on Unix and NT as well.
The current version of NetWare is NetWare 5.1. NetWare 6 will be coming out in late 2001, with a new file system and kernel architecture that will be more like Unix and NT. It will also be fully multiprocessor scalable.