Novell steps up to managing enterprise Linux servers

Novell Inc. last week shipped software for managing enterprise Linux servers made by Novell and Red Hat, taking its systems management approach to a higher level.

Novell had previously offered management software, but ZENworks is Windows-based, more generalized and more focused on desktops rather than servers, acknowledges Doug Jarvis, Novell’s product marketing manager for Linux Enterprise.

The new software, SUSE Manager, is very much focused on Linux. While Red Hat Enterprise Linux is covered, SUSE Manager is best integrated with Novell’s own SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Novell’s shareholders approved the sale of the company last month to Attachmate for about US$2.2 billion, although the deal depends on Novell getting approval to sell hundreds of patents to a consortium led by Microsoft.

Jarvis says this integration has several benefits, including the ability to manage all product extensions. Plus, some technical issues are handled better. For example, if a package of software is renamed, some management software wouldn’t recognize the change, but SUSE Manager would.

The new software is based on the open-source project Spacewalk, systems management code started by Red Hat and made open-source in 2008. Jarvis says Novell has contributed a few updates to the project and is planning “a bunch more.”

The primary component of SUSE Manager is a server that deploys agents to managed systems and provides an interface for the IT manager. Users can deploy proxy servers to help manage large groups of Linux servers – about one to every 300 servers. There are also three different modules, covering management, provisioning and monitoring.

The different components are sold individually. The main server costs $13,500 for a one-year subscription, which includes full support.

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