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Novell Linux Desktop--A Linux Distribution for Enterprise Desktops

Re-Inking the Big Red 'N'

  • December 27, 2004
  • By Bill von Hagen

When I first saw rumblings in the trade press about Novell's new Novell Linux Desktop (NLD) distribution, I was confused at best. Novell's own press corps, impressive in terms of sheer volume, didn't make this clear. As shown in Figure 1, the splash screen for the installer leaves no doubt that this is a new and unique Novell product. However, there's a good deal of general confusion about how NetWare, SUSE Linux, SUSE Enterprise Server, various mail products, eDirectory, ZENworks, Ximian's desktop and Evolution mail client, and now the Novell Linux Desktop all fit together.

I am not a shill for Novell and thus still can't answer all of those questions, but spending some time experimenting with NLD in both its GNOME and KDE incarnations and talking with friends and detractors who follow Novell and/or work in Novell shops, has helped me begin to make sense of all of this.

The Novell Linux Desktop is the desktop companion of Novell's latest release of the SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server software. Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 provides a reliable, stable, and scalable operating system, server, and application deployment environment. The Novell Linux Desktop is the end-user version of side of SUSE's enterprise offerings.

The goal of these products, much like Red Hat's Enterprise Server and Red Hat Desktop, is to provide a stable, supportable enterprise server and desktop environment. Most enterprise environments actively avoid trying to support the latest bleeding-edge versions of every conceivable software package, focusing instead on providing stable, well-tested, and well-integrated versions of the packages that users actually "need." This makes reviewing the Novell Linux Desktop somewhat different than most distribution discussions.

It's always important to assess what software a distribution provides, but that's always relative to its target audience. Similarly, in the context of a distribution targeted towards enterprise desktop users, the questions "does it have the latest and greatest version of package XXX," is probably less important than "is package XXX stable?" and "how well does it all fit together?"

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