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Now Here It Is, Your Moment of ZENWorks

New Linux Support, But Look for Changes In 2006

  • August 29, 2005
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

Novell's recently released ZENWorks 7 adds some major new Linux functionality--but a long-term product redesign is also under way, and the first overhaul of Novell's multiplatform systems administration package could hit the streets as early as next year.

Taken as a whole, ZENWorks 7 brings new support for Linux-based administration of Windows desktops through its Desktop Management component, and for Linux-based administration of Linux servers and desktops through its Linux Management component.

"ZENWorks 7 is a revolutionary product," maintained Martin Buckley, director of product management, during an interview with LinuxPlanet last week.

Buckley predicted that the package will prove useful both to long-term Linux administrators and to Windows administrators who are just getting started with Linux.

"It doesn't require re-training (for Linux), because it has a very intuitive Web interface," Buckley told LinuxPlanet.

"But at the same time, we have very deep command line interfaces for all these guys who already know how to use Linux."

Released this month after a delay in the original ship date, the latest version of Novell's multiplatform opus for systems administrators is the first to include the component called ZENWorks Linux Management, initially rolled out in 2004 as a separate product.

Essentially, last year's ZENWorks Linux Management 6.6 represented a rebranding of the Red Carpet software distribution product garnered through Novell's acquisition of Ximian. "In 6.6, we only used the software distribution," according to Buckley.

"ZENWorks Linux Management 7, on the other hand, is aimed at comprehensive "policy-based lifecycle management," said the Novell official.

Novell has enriched the 6.6 edition with a long list of other new features, including the Web console interface, remote control, hardware and software inventory, and imaging.

Rackspace, a big Linux management hosting provider, is one user of Linux Management 7. Rackspace is brand new to ZENWorks, as opposed to being a Ximian holdover, according to Buckley.

Novell set the stage for the Linux Management component of ZENWorks early last year at its BrainShare 2004 conference.

As previously reported in LinuxPlanet, Richard Whitehad, Novell's director of product marketing, told reporters at a BrainShare 2004 press briefing that in 2005, Novell would release a Web services-based edition of ZENWorks, then codenamed "Brimstone."

Brimstone was slated to provide full policy-based administration across all platforms, including Linux.

So far, though, the Linux Management component of ZENWorks is dedicated to Linux environments only. Version 7 supports "enterprise-grade Linux," encompassing Novell SuSE and Red Hat Linux platforms all the way from desktops to blade servers, Buckley said this week.

In another advancement in Linux administration, ZENWorks' Desktop Management component--which previously operated only on Novell NetWare and Microsoft Windows servers--now runs on Novell SuSE and Red Hat server platforms, too.

Long before Novell's buyouts of Linux companies SuSE Linux and Ximian, ZENWorks was devoted to systems management from Novell's original NetWare platform.

Over the years, NetWare has added support for other OS--first Windows, and then Linux. But at this point, Novell has no intentions of abandoning its NetWare support, Buckley said.

The ongoing NetWare support is targeted at users who are migrating from NetWare to Linux, as well as at users who aren't willing to move yet--even now.

"NetWare is still a very important platform for ZENWorks, because of the tight integration between the Novell file system and directory controls," he told LinuxPlanet.

"We'll continue to support NetWare for as long as we have significant customer demand."

Novell also intends to hang on to YaST, a systems administration tool inherited through the SuSE buyout.

YaST, however, will not be grown past its current role. "YaST is still very vibrant, and it's still a core component (for environments with) one or two servers. But we're not talking 100 or 200 servers here," Buckley noted.

But beyond the Linux Management and Desktop Management pieces, ZENWorks 7 also incorporates a bunch of other components.

ZENWorks Server Management--which runs on Linux, NetWare, or Windows--supports management of NetWare and Windows servers, and in most cases, Linux servers, too, he said.

In contrast, ZENWorks Patch Management runs only in Windows environments. "Patch management is not such a burning concern for Linux administrators--but it is for Windows administrators," according to Buckley.

Another component of ZENWorks 7, Handheld Management, is designed for management of Windows and Palm handhelds from Windows servers.

Will Novell add support for managing Linux-based PDAs, too: "We're always watching the market--but so far we haven't noticed much mass appeal for Linux handhelds," he answered.

ZENWorks, however, is in for some big changes over the long term, along the lines of a more streamlined design, Buckley said.

"ZENWorks 7 is one of the strongest (administrative) platforms we've had, but we're driving a very aggressive roadmap," he contended.

"Over the next 12 to 15 months, we'll be merging (some of the) components together, to build (synergies) and eliminate redundancies."

The first changes are likely to appear in the next release of ZENWorks, according to Novell's director of product management.

"I can't comment specifically (on future products)," Buckley told LinuxPlanet. "But we usually come out with a new release (of ZENWorks) every year or so. So 2006 would be the next."

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