ZENworks for heterogeneous networks

Novell Inc. launched on Friday an upgrade of its ZENworks software suite which features life-cycle management capabilities for enterprises operating within a Linux environment, and also supports managing Windows desktops from servers running an open source operating system.

The ZENworks 7 Suite was originally slated for a second quarter launch, according to a road map that Novell provided at its BrainShare user conference in March.

Richard Whitehead, Novell’s director of product management, said this month that the product was delayed because the company only “ships products that meet customer needs on Day 1.”

According to Novell, ZENworks 7 enables enterprise users to manage Windows and Linux desktops, laptops, mobile devices and servers from a single workstation. The news represents another component of Provo, Utah-based Novell’s Linux strategy; the fierce Microsoft Corp. rival has been making strides to capitalize on Linux’s growing popularity and expand in the Linux update and support services market.

At least one industry insider believes the strategy is working well.

Fred Broussard, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said the new version enhances Novell’s already solid ZENworks offering by boosting the software’s ability to manage heterogeneous networks that include both Linux and Windows systems. But more significantly, “it heralds Novell’s increasing independence from NetWare,” which has been buffeted by a persistent decline in revenue in recent years, he said.

The past couple of years have seen Novell acquire vendors SUSE Linux AG and Ximian Inc. and release its NetWare services on the Linux kernel. The Linux management software that’s part of the ZENworks suite is based on Ximian technology, previously dubbed Red Carpet Enterprise.

The offering is designed to appeal to enterprises by offering them to the ability to quickly deploy and manage Linux in their IT environments, potentially reducing the total cost of IT operations. The new features include full life-cycle management capabilities for Linux, centralized system imaging, configuration lockdown and remote management capabilities for Linux systems.

The upgrade essentially extends Novell’s policy-based management automation capabilities to Linux desktops, said Ross Chevalier, chief technology officer/chief information officer for Markham, Ont.-based Novell Canada Ltd.

For organizations running a mixed network environment, there has been a need to manage third-party technologies, Chevalier said, adding the offering “provides a single point of management, a single point of services, dramatically reducing the cost of operations and support.” He said companies no longer have to spot a bunch of different workstations and hardware just to keep their businesses operational.

The Zenworks upgrade may also appeal to organizations currently testing Linux desktops in their environment, Chevalier noted. One key requirement for their success is that the management of (Linux) devices be as simple as what they’ve been accustomed to with toolsets for Windows, he said.

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