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SUSE updates Linux control freak

Shadowman in a chameleon suit wearing a Red Hat

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SUSE Linux, the division of software conglomerate Attachmate that develops and sells the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server distribution of Linux, is hosting its SUSECon user and developer conference this week in Orlando, Florida and is using the occasion to launch SUSE Manager 1.7, a substantial update to the Linux server control freak the company first put out nearly two years ago.

As El Reg explained in detail back in March 2011, SUSE Manager is a funny program in that it is based on the open source code that rival Red Hat put out into the open source community to be the control freak for its own Enterprise Linux distribution.

Specifically, in June 2008 Red Hat open sourced its Red Hat Network Satellite in-house Linux provisioning and administration system as Project Spacewalk, and rather than create its own control freak, SUSE Linux decided to grab the Spacewalk code and make modifications to it to make it play nice with green Linux rather than red Linux.

The big change has to do with package managers and network installers. RHEL uses Yum for package management and Kickstart for network installs. Back when it was still part of Novell (which was eaten by Attachmate and is now run as a separate division), SUSE Linux added support for Zypp and AutoYast (their equivalents on the SLES side) to the open source Spacewalk 1.2 tool and contributed this code back to the project.

SUSE Manager 1.0 was based on this Spacewalk 1.2 code, and SUSE Linux packaged it up as a virtual appliance inside of a Xen or KVM virtual machine, and initially supported only SLES 11 and RHEL 4, 5, and 6; SLES 10 support was promised for a future release, but SLES 9 users were out of luck.

With SUSE Manager 1.7, SUSE Linux is moving to the latest Spacewalk 1.7 code from the community, and synchronizing its release numbers with Spacewalk to avoid confusion. Sabine Soelheim, solution marketing manager for emerging technologies at SUSE, tells El Reg that a lot of the APIs in the Spacewalk code, and therefore in the SUSE Manager code, have been changed and improved compared to the version that came out in early 2011.

Support for provisioning and managing SLES 11 SP2 and RHEL 6 servers was also added with this release, of course. Moreover, the underlying SUSE Linux code for running SUSE Manager has been upgraded to SLES 11 SP2, which sports the Linux 3.0 kernel, and support for SLES 10 servers and integration with the SUSE Studio virtual appliance server builder has also been added with the 1.7 release of SUSE Manager.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop clients can now also be remote controlled from SUSE Manager. The tool can now also provision and manage IPv6 network links on machines.

The release also has preliminary support for the Cobbler 2.2 Linux installation and update server, and can integrate with OpenSCAP, which is a Red Hat implementation of the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) framework put out by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology to standardize the way data about vulnerabilities and the patches that deal with them are stored on different kinds of systems.

Another change with SUSE Manager 1.7 is that you are not forced to use an Oracle 10g or 11g database to hold the configuration data for all of the machines under the thumb of the control freak. Now you can use the open source PostgreSQL as a backend database.

SUSE Manager is itself a Java program. With the 1.7 release, you can plunk SUSE Manager into a KVM or VMware ESXi partition, but the Xen variant has been discontinued.

The pricing on SUSE Manager has gone down with the 1.7 release, but the packaging remains the same. You need to buy the SUSE Manager Server, which is the hub for managing servers and desktops running SLES or RHEL on x86, Power, Itanium, or IBM mainframe iron. This used to cost $13,500 for an annual support contract, but now it costs $10,000, according to Soelheim.

Then you need to buy the SUSE Manager Proxy, also updated with a 1.7 release on Wednesday, and that costs $3,500 per year. Then you have to buy management, provisioning, and monitoring modules to provide the functionality that you want on top of that for each physical server. It costs $96 per module per physical server under management if you run them in bare-metal mode with either SLES or RHEL, and $196 per module per physical server if you intend to virtualize the machine. On IBM mainframes, you pay $1,000 per core per module.

The release notes for SUSE Manager 1.7 will eventually be published here, but were not available as El Reg went to press. ®

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