Novell is continuing its transition from Microsoft victim to Linux comeback with the release of a popular management tool revamped to work with enterprise Linux, as well as two Linux distributions: one aimed at hobbyists and the other at enterprise users.
The company used the CeBIT conference in Germany today to introduce Novell ZENworks 7 Linux Management. ZENworks is used to manage systems over the network, providing a variety of tools that simplify and automate the process.
Among the features Novell's touting for this release are a Web-based administration tool, centralized disk imaging to automate Linux installations, remote control via the open source Virtual Network Computing (VNC) client, and policy-based tools for management of individual or groups of machines.
In keeping with Novell's recent push to tie common open source tools to its own management offerings, some of the applications in the newest ZENworks release reflect a cross-pollination of features. The VNC client, for instance, which has traditionally relied on simple passwords for authentication, will rely now on Novell's directory services to authenticate help desk personnel accessing user workstations for a troubleshooting session.
The latest ZENworks also integrates technology and software Novell picked up during its acquisition of a pair of Linux companies in late 2003 and early 2004. Some of the software management tools reflect work done by the Linux desktop startup Ximian, which provided them under the name "Red Carpet." Red Carpet solved some of the typically complex issues of package dependencies in the Linux world.
ZENworks also contains some of the software produced by German Linux distributor SUSE, which Novell acquired early last year and used as the foundation of its recently announced Open Enterprise Server (OES) offering. Though Novell almost immediately released SUSE's widely respected YaST Linux installation tool under the GNU Public License (GPL) (define), it also took advantage of the underlying technology to flesh out its own commercial offerings.
Availability for the new offering is set for the second quarter of this year. Novell has announced that it will manage either SUSE or Red Hat Enterprise Linux systems. The company l has not yet announced pricing, but it has provided a page of screenshots of the new software on its site.
This week Novell also announced the release of SUSE Linux 9.3. When Novell bought SUSE last year, it kept its toe in the desktop market by allowing the traditionally end-user friendly SUSE Personal and Professional distributions to continue development.
The latest release maintains that traditional desktop focus, stressing the inclusion of some of the newest end-user software (KDE 3.4, GNOME 2.10, and OpenOffice 2.0), a desktop search tool called "Beagle," and enhancements to WiFi, Bluetooth, and PDA support. Services such as Apache, Samba, and DNS also got some play in the announcement.
Of interest to enterprise users is support for Novell's XEN virtualization technology and the addition of GroupWise Instant Messenger support to the mix.
Finally, Novell announced the availability of its OES offering. The company has been working toward producing a Linux-based platform on which users can run its Netware management tools, and OES, which is built on SUSE Linux, represents the first generation of that fusion of platforms.
Prices for the offering range from $530 for an upgrade of an existing five-user license to $18,400 for a new license that supports 100 users. A competitive upgrade program that covers most of Novell's competition, including Windows from NT 4.0 forward and Red Hat's Enterprise Server offerings, puts the price of the software in the same range as an upgrade to an existing Novell license.