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Dell, Novell to Manage Red Hat, SUSE

Mar 20, 2006, 19:00 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jacqueline Emigh)

By Jacqueline Emigh
Contributing Editor

At Novell BrainShare today, Novell and Dell joined hands in launching a software product for remote management of servers running either Novell's own SUSE Linux or a competing Linux distribution put out by Red Hat, Novell's long-time archrival.

Pegged for availability on April 19, the jointly developed software for Dell PowerEdge servers will be dubbed Novell Zenworks 7 Linux Management - Dell Edition, said Jason Werner, a Novell product marketing manager, during a pre-briefing with Linux Today.

The upcoming software package "takes our Zenworks Linux management product and adds a layer of Dell-specific management," according to Werner.

The new Dell Edition of Zenworks will be geared mainly to organizations with multiple remote PowerEdge servers, "where you wouldn't necessarily have Linux expertise (on site) at all locations," Werner said.

Target customers include organizations engaged in server consolidation as well as those that are migrating servers from Microsoft Windows to either SUSE or Red Hat.

The Dell Edition will be the first iteration of Zenworks tailored to managing both of these two major distributions of Linux. Novell did not work directly with Red Hat in creating the product, he said.

But together with Dell, a long-time Red Hat ally, Novell has been tweaking Zenworks to support Red Hat environments.

Already tested by Novell on both SUSE and Red Hat Linux, the product will bring together Zenworks features such as remote provisioning and inventory management with capabilities specific to Dell's PowerEdge platform. The Dell-specific tools will deal with areas ranging from bios administration to remote access management.

Novell Zenworks 7, Linux Management - Dell Edition will not replace the Dell OpenManage software that has shipped for some time with PowerEdge servers, Werner said.

"But [the Zenworks] software will cover the entire [server] lifecycle, including pre-OS and RAID," he told Linux Today.

Through the new Dell edition, administrators in remote locations will have access to detailed bios and firmware information. "You'll be able to run queries to find out what has been deployed on a server," he added.

Administrators will also be able to make configuration changes remotely, repurposing a system "simply by changing it from a Web server to a storage server, for example," according to the Novell executive.

Configuration changes made on one server can be quickly promulgated among other servers that perform the same roles, reside in the same geographies, or have the same models and makes.

"You can even adjust the utility partition on the hard drive when no OS is present," Werner said. Consequently, he suggested, organizations can be more certain that configuration settings will remain consistent among a group of servers.

On the other hand, the product will also support capabilities built into Zenworks for assigning administrative rights only to authorized individuals, Werner said.

The Dell edition of Zenworks will be sold separately from PowerEdge servers. The product will not be available through Novell or its resellers.

Instead, sales will be performed exclusively through Dell, according to Werner.

As some analysts see it, today's announcement by Novell and Dell reflects an increasingly visible industry-wide trend toward better Linux management tools.

"It's really obvious that [Linux management] tools are getting broader, more sophisticated, and better able to integrate with outside systems," said Andy Mann, a senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), during another interview.

But although Hewlett-Packard and IBM Tivoli have accomplished some penetration of the Linux management market, much of the innovation so far has come from smaller vendors such as Levanta, Velocity Software, and Opsware, according to Mann.

But many Linux administrators have relied mainly on tools from Novell and Red Hat. "So it's good to see a company such as Novell getting behind some new management software," added the analyst, who is also the author of a recently released report from EMA called "Get the Truth on Linux Management."

Co-sponsored by Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and Levanta, one of the OSDL's members, the study of over 200 Linux companies dismisses earlier claims that Linux has a higher Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) as "no longer true."

Mann also told Linux Today that support for other Linux distributions could prove useful to Novell. "Zen is [basically] open source software, [but] with some proprietary components. It should be in Novell's best interests to support as many other distributions of Linux as it can, to further the growth of Linux," he said.

"Support for other distros could only help Novell. It certainly couldn't hurt," concurred David Dennis, Levanta's director of marketing.

Dennis noted that many Linux customers are now seeking multi-distro support as a way of avoiding "vendor lock-in."

Levanta's management tools support both SUSE and Red Hat Linux, along with a "second tier" of distros such as CentOS and Asianux, according to the marketing director.

But Dennis also maintained that Linux management tools vary along a number of other lines, based on the administrative capabilities needed in particular types of deployments.

Novell has already been providing hefty Linux management support through its multiplatform Zenworks lineup, observed Fred Broussard, an IDC analyst, in another interview with Linux Today.

Broussard also pointed out that it isn't at all unusual for competitors in the computer industry to cooperate on some levels.

"We've heard a lot over the years about Novell and Red Hat having an adversarial relationship," according to the IDC analyst.

"But at the end of the day, Novell is going to do what its customers want. Novell is a very customer-centric company," Broussard told Linux Today.

Novell's Werner declined to comment one way or the other on whether other products supporting multiple Linux distributions are also in the works at Novell. "Not that we've made public comments on," Werner told Linux Today.

The upcoming Novell Zenworks 7 Linux Management - Dell Edition will be priced at $69 per license.

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