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February 2011

 

 

 

 

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Introducing the SUSE® Geeko Gazette

Welcome to your first edition of the Geeko Gazette, a quarterly newsletter for SUSE Linux Enterprise users. The Geeko Gazette will provide you with the latest information on technical solutions, product updates and training, as well as hardware and software certifications. Our mission is to ensure that you have the resources and know-how to get the most out of your SUSE Linux Enterprise environment, improve the efficiency of your data center and make your job easier. We hope you find this first edition helpful—even entertaining! Please don't hesitate to leave us feedback and suggest topics for upcoming editions by e-mailing us at geekogazette@novell.com.

SUSE Tips and Tricks

Keep it Rolling

Automatically Upgrade from SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 to 11
By Matthias Eckermann, Senior Product Manager

Have you ever seen how workers move big cheese loaves in the Netherlands? They roll them!

When the Dutch face a problem, they try to resolve any issue as smoothly as possible, and rolling the cheese is the easiest solution. As I have quickly learned, the Dutch approach IT with the same philosophy, to the benefit of all SUSE Linux Enterprise customers.

Last year, I got a call from a customer in Maasland—a green countryside famous for its tasty Gouda cheese called Maaslander.

This customer had several hundred servers, which were running SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 SP3. The customer was looking for a way to migrate its systems to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1 for mission-critical systems.

What should the customer do?

  • Dumb question, right? Do a fresh install and be happy! Well, that was an option—some competitor's option. But, it certainly lacked the smoothness and efficiency the customer required.
  • The next choice was to do the migration the SUSE Linux Enterprise way. Boot SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 SP1; let YaST2 propose what to do with SUSE Linux Enterprise 10; ask the administrator for his or her opinion; and, well, there you go.
    That was a better option, and kind of smooth for five or six systems. But what about for several hundred systems?

The administrators in Maasland knew how to use YaST2. They also knew about AutoYaST and were hoping to use its great automation capabilities. Clever idea; indeed, nearly everything in YaST2 can be scripted with AutoYaST.

Nearly everything, except—you guessed it—the upgrade process.

Well, one of our Czech colleagues took on the challenge, and he and his team enhanced the YaST2 upgrade modules by introducing hooks where the AutoYaST process could ask the AutoYaST control file (an XML file) instead of an administrator.

This capability would have been available in the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 Service Pack 2 boot media by the end of 2011.

The end of 2011?

Doing your work smoothly is one thing; doing it slowly is another. And waiting is not an option in the Netherlands or anywhere else.

That said, as a tribute to our friends in Maasland and to benefit all of our SUSE Linux Enterprise customers, we published the necessary update via our maintenance website. Find a How-to Guide here.

Once you have updated your data center to use SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 SP1, think of the Netherlands and how the desire to do things smoothly and efficiently often drives innovation!


Keep the Operating System Stable, Secure and Supportable with Maintenance!

Why Maintenance Matters

By Matthias Eckermann, Senior Product Manager

Do you ever wonder what maintenance is all about?

Why is maintenance such a big deal?

Why do we care about maintenance?

Do you wonder how we plan for and manage maintenance?

Looking at how we maintain the Linux kernel is a great example that shows how we constantly improve our SUSE Linux Enterprise distribution without breaking certifications and compatibility.

Our support, kernel, security, maintenance and QA teams work closely together to deliver the best operating system kernel on a regular basis.

We continuously collect kernel bug fixes, security fixes and enhancements from a variety of sources: QA, customers, technology partners and other outside contacts.

We do not release a kernel update each time we have a fix, but we do schedule regular kernel updates:

  • For SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 products (e.g., SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 SP1) we currently plan for monthly updates.
  • As the number of incoming patches decreases over a product's lifecycle, we schedule regular kernel updates less frequently. For example, we are currently following a two-month schedule for SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 updates.

We take a conservative approach. Bug fixes are the standard, and features and new functionality are the exception.

The extended team rates patches according to:

  • Customer needs
  • Product strategy
  • Quality standards

If no urgent improvements are required, the team has the freedom to skip one scheduled update (and save you some work). If we deem an improvement is urgent for all our customers, our team will push out an off-schedule delivery via the Novell Customer Center.

Tip: Subscribe to the patch notifications and stay up to date with our maintenance and security information.


Recent Support Documents

Easily Find the Answers to Your Questions

We strive to give you the technical information you need, when you need it. One way we do this is by publishing Technical Information Documents (TIDs), short summaries of the solutions used to resolve customer support issues that are written by our support engineers and posted to our web site. Our knowledgebase offers a rich resource that you can use to get answers to your questions or other support issues. Recently released support documents include:

You can easily find the solutions to these questions and others you may have by searching our nowledgebase.


The Challenge of Distributing Software

openSUSE Build Service Is the Solution

By Jos Poortvliet, openSUSE Community Manager

One challenge for Linux software developers is compiling software to run on various Linux platforms. This usually means obtaining several versions of each distribution they want to support and building binary packages for each platform–a labor-intensive process. While some standards such as the Linux Standard Base mitigate the situation, developers usually still bump into non-standard names for dependencies and many other road blocks. SUSE Linux Enterprise offers a solution: the openSUSE Build Service.

Even with good documentation and some excellent sessions, creating a new package manually is a complex task for a new or inexperienced packager. Even for experienced packagers, multi-distribution packages are cumbersome. Fortunately, many of the necessary tasks can be automated, and openSUSE developer Lubos Lunak has created a tool that makes it possible to automate creating packages for multiple distributions. Because build requirements can be found from source tarballs, just as with installed files, Lunak's tool can create the build files for a new package, even with complex source tarballs. We are working to integrate this tool into the openSUSE Build Service itself, which will make multi-distribution packaging easier than ever.

The openSUSE Build Service an also prepare, do QA and release maintenance updates for openSUSE, SUSE Linux Enterprise, or any other distribution. The openSUSE Build Service is a collaborative tool that creates projects and groups with their associated maintainers and access rights. A developer can thus prepare changes in a branched project and then request to have the changes merged back. The openSUSE Build Service also automatically resolves dependencies among packages. For example, if Package A depends on Package B, Package A will be triggered for a rebuild automatically if Package B changes. openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise Developers use these tools to develop and maintain openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server in a structured manner, which lowers risk and increases development speed. The openSUSE Build Service helps Novell ensure that customers receive a high-quality, enterprise-level operating platform.

SUSE Spotlight

Tackling the Tough Issues Quickly

An Interview with Support Engineer Albert Fischer

To help customers receive the attention they need, Novell has a global support team with SUSE Linux Enterprise field engineers in countries all over the world. Novell support was recognized as having the best Linux support in the industry by Lighthouse Research & Development in a recent study and was honored for delivering for the fourth consecutive year for providing one of the Ten Best Web Support Sites by The Association of Support Professionals (ASP). Novell delivers technical support through service centers housing backline engineers and frontline engineers in Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and the United States. One such engineer is Albert Fischer, who works in Nuremberg, Germany.

Fischer wears a variety of hats in his support role for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. He handles escalations worldwide, ensures that customer service levels are met, and as a product lead he acts as an interface between support and development to ensure that customer issues get the right attention from the development team. "In my role as product lead, I meet frequently with both engineering and support teams to prioritize issues," Fischer says. "We review the impact that issues have on customers' business operations and make sure that the most critical ones get resolved fastest. We also determine which engineers will be best at tackling the problems so they can get resolved as soon as possible."

To better address customer issues, all SUSE Linux Enterprise support engineers receive ongoing training on existing and newly released products. "When a new product comes out, the development team will first train the backline engineers on the product," Fischer says. "The backline engineers then train and mentor the frontline engineers." The engineers also receive soft skills training to enhance their ability to help customers. "Every engineer has to pass a signature service program that focuses on communication and customer interaction skills," Fischer says. "This teaches our engineers how to better communicate with customers and how to treat customers with proper respect for their feelings and concerns."

One of the major concerns for the SUSE Linux Enterprise support team is being able to resolve problems quickly, which is no surprise when you consider that the most common support question from customers is, "When will my issue be fixed?" According to Fischer, providing a timeline to resolution can be difficult, especially if it's not clear what is causing the problem. "Coming up with a fix is not usually what takes the longest time in addressing an issue," Fischer says. "It's the analysis that takes time, particularly if we don't know its root cause. Once we know the root cause, a fix can be developed in a few days."

In addition to the work done by its support and development teams, one way that Novell is expediting problem analysis and resolution for customers is by putting more tools and resources in customers' hands. Novell recently released a support analyzer tool with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. "The support analyzer tool collects the logs and configuration files that are typically needed to analyze issues," Fischer says. "The tool parses the files and looks for any errors or mis-configurations. It also checks to see if the proper patches have been installed. Quite often the analyzer tool enables customers to fix issues themselves. The tool also makes it easier for our frontline engineers to address issues, giving them insights on where to look to analyze and solve issues fast." For Fischer and the rest of the SUSE Linux Enterprise support team, that's what it's all about: solving customers' problems and giving them the resolutions they need as quickly as possible.

Cloud Corner

Build Cloud-ready Workloads

Use SUSE Studio to Develop Virtual Appliances for Cloud Deployments

By Peter Chadwick, Senior Product Manager

Since its launch over a year ago, SUSE Studio has made creating images for physical and virtual deployments easy. With its latest enhancements, SUSE Studio can now create virtual appliances in the Amazon EC2 format. This makes creating a custom EC2 workload using SUSE Linux Enterprise and uploading it to your EC2 account easy. You can take advantage of the recently announced Amazon EC2 running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server to provision capacity on demand. This offering comes with automatic maintenance that keeps the operating system up to date with the most current Novell security patches, bug fixes and new features to deliver peak performance. We also have added support in SUSE Studio for creating images using the Open Virtualization Format (OVF), which is seeing wider use in both private and public cloud deployments. SUSE Studio is easy to use, and with these new capabilities it gives you even greater flexibility when you need to move workloads to a cloud environment.

Training and Support

Ensure Your Systems Are Running Properly

Utilize Novell Support Advisor Diagnostic Tools

Downloading the Novell Support Advisor allows you to diagnose your SUSE Linux Enterprise and Novell Open Enterprise Server (Linux) systems as well as Novell GroupWise and Novell ZENworks server applications running on either Linux or Windows. Novell Support Advisor is a free, easily installed client that allows you to identify issues securely and locally and does not require sending log information to Novell for analysis.

Download Novell Support Advisor


Understand the Fundamentals of SUSE Linux Enterprise

Take Advantage of First Look Training

First Look is Novell On-demand Training, included with your SUSE Linux Enterprise subscription, that introduces you to the fundamentals of installation, basic configuration and new features of a product. This training prepares you to move on to more advanced Novell training and certification courses. If you and your team have not already taken advantage of this great resource, go to My Training in the Novell Customer Center now.

Certifications

Ensuring Broad Hardware and Software Support

Updates on Hardware and Software Certifications

By Peter Chadwick, Senior Product Manager

The dedicated hardware and software certification teams at Novell have been hard at work ensuring that you get the support for the applications you need and for the systems you want to run them on. In the fourth quarter of 2010 alone, our hardware team completed 709 certifications. This included certifications of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for the following HP, IBM and Dell servers:

Dell—PowerEdge T410, PowerEdge T610, PowerEdge R610, PowerEdge R710, PowerEdge M610, PowerEdge
M710
HP—DL380 (Intel), DL385 (AMD), DL580 (Intel), DL585 (AMD)
IBM—x3650M3, x3550M3, x3620M3, x3630M3, x3400M3, x3500M3

To search for more hardware certified on SUSE Linux Enterprise, click here.

Additionally, in the fourth quarter of 2010, our independent software vendor (ISV) team added 472 certified applications for recent editions of SUSE Linux Enterprise. As of January 2011, Novell maintained 6,552 application certifications for SUSE Linux Enterprise from 1,561 ISVs—more than 2.5 times the amount of application certifications for recent versions of Red Hat. If you know of an application that is not supported, let us know. Our ISV team will work with the application provider to get the applications you need certified on SUSE Linux Enterprise. We're committed to making everything run on SUSE Linux Enterprise so you don't have to worry about it. For a complete listing of all certified applications click here.

Novell

In this Issue

SUSE Tips and Tricks

Upgrading from SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 to 11

Keep the Operating System Stable, Secure and Supportable with Maintenance!

Recent Support Documents

The Challenge of Distributing Software

SUSE Spotlight

Tackling the Tough Issues Quickly

Cloud Corner

Build Cloud-ready Workloads

Training and Support

Ensure Your Systems Are Running Properly

Understand the Fundamentals of SUSE Linux Enterprise

Certifications

Ensuring Broad Hardware and Software Support