Welcome to the second issue of The SUSE Insider, a quarterly technical journal exclusively for SUSE customers. Our mission is to help 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, leverage new open source innovation like cloud computing and make your job easier. In this issue, we will provide you with a "big picture" view of OpenStack as well as very specific information to improve your use of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. We hope you will enjoy, and benefit from, our articles!

Happy reading!

Marjorie Westerman
Editor-in-Chief


Recent News

New SUSE Download Site
We are pleased to announce a new SUSE download site from which you can more easily search and access all SUSE product downloads.

SUSECON 2013 Keynotes
We just completed our annual user conference in Orlando, Florida this month. Check out the opening / closing keynotes and a few informative and fun videos from the event on the SUSE YouTube Channel.


SUSE Spotlight: Inside OpenStack—A Conversation with Alan Clark, Chairman of the OpenStack Board

Alan Clark is director of industry initiatives, emerging standards and open source at SUSE as well as chairman of the board at OpenStack. As a member of the SUSE team, Alan focuses on new industry initiatives, emerging standards and open source. To facilitate the awareness and adoption of open source and open standards, he has also been a director or board chair for several open source projects and consortia including OpenStack, the openSUSE project, The Linux Foundation, OASIS and The OpenGroup.

According to its website, the OpenStack Foundation promotes the development, distribution and adoption of the OpenStack cloud operating system. Who are OpenStack’s competitors, and how and why is the OpenStack approach better?
Many people like to envision competitors in an epic struggle for cloud market share. While it’s easy to name the competitors for cloud mind share, it is interesting to note that many of those competitors are also contributors to the OpenStack project. The interesting questions are "why would competitors choose to collaborate,” and, in particular, “why did they choose to do so with OpenStack?” I would suggest the following are some of the reasons:

  1. An open source project is not about a single company, person, idea or line of code.
  2. Our mission, project principles and design tenets make the open source project distinct from any other project or competing product.
  3. Our industry support includes contributions from experts of every facet of cloud computing.
  4. OpenStack has a record of delivering releases.
  5. Global adoption.

These five reasons set OpenStack apart from the pack and are part of the reason for its amazing growth, dramatic acceptance and future success.

What is the role of the chairman of an open source community?
Let me answer that in the context of our history and structure. As the OpenStack project began to accelerate in terms of the number of contributors and corporate supporters, it was determined that the project be governed by an independent foundation. This was a wise decision considering that the project today has grown to more than 12,000 individual members from more than 100 countries with more than 190 supporting organizations.

The purpose of the OpenStack Foundation, through the leadership of the Board and Technical Committee (TC), is to promote the development, distribution and adoption of the OpenStack cloud operating system. Its mission is to be the ubiquitous cloud computing platform. Specifically, it serves developers, users, and the entire ecosystem by providing a set of shared resources to grow the footprint of public and private OpenStack clouds, enable technology vendors targeting the platform and assist developers in producing the best cloud software in the industry.

The most ingenious feature of the foundation setup is the separation of duties.  While the TC focuses on what they do best, ensuring the strength and vitality of the technical projects, the Board focuses on the strategic and financial oversight of the foundation. As the chairman, I manage these activities, follow up on their progress as well as report results and bring back decisions to the board. And I'm proud to state that the board is extremely active and collaborative in carrying out their mission.

OpenStack consists of companies that compete in the real world. How do you manage the differing objectives and conflicts?
SUSE has more than 20 years of experience working with open source. A majority of the OpenStack members have similar open source backgrounds. A benefit of those years of experience is the understanding that even though companies have differing business objectives, they can collaborate through the defined mechanisms of open source.  For many of the OpenStack sponsors, collaborating through open source is a well-known model.

As the OpenStack chairman and a SUSE employee, how do you avoid conflicts of interest?
This is an area where I pay careful attention. I try very hard to ensure that I avoid conflicts of interest in my role as board chair. SUSE and the SUSE employees I work with not only support my role in the open source communities, but do everything they can to support and help to ensure that my assignments as a SUSE employee do not create conflicts.

What are the current challenges of OpenStack?
The main challenge is to eliminate the barriers to adoption. Barriers include the need for best practices to guide adopters’ deployments, training and education to create more OpenStack experts and a good interoperable experience for those deploying OpenStack clouds or workloads.

The OpenStack Foundation is making a special effort to apprise the ecosystem on who and how OpenStack is being adopted and used. It's amazing to see OpenStack being used in ecommerce, research, government, financial and other enterprise-level businesses.

OpenStack recently announced the OpenStack training marketplace. The program will create more OpenStack experts and ensure that OpenStack has a positive impact on the careers of our community members.

There is strong interest in ensuring that OpenStack users have a good experience. To that end, the board is leading discussions on the core functionality of OpenStack. Defining the core will lead to greater interoperability among OpenStack products and deployments.

What is the future direction of OpenStack?
The future of OpenStack is guided by its mission. That future is bright and full of promise. You simply have to look at the progress of the OpenStack projects to begin to feel the potential and excitement of things to come. What started as two small projects three years ago is now up to 19 programs with more than 1,000 contributors. OpenStack has quickly evolved to much more than compute and storage. For example, our 19 projects include developing metering, orchestration and load balancing services. With its quickly expanding momentum, cloud computing will definitely be much evolved five years from now.

Can you give us a scoop—an insight or story about OpenStack (the product or the community) that we outsiders wouldn’t know?
The secret is that there are no secrets. Transparency is the strength of open source. I would suggest that the readers check out the plans for the next release. 


Getting the Most from YaST: Some Very Helpful but Mostly Unknown Tricks

Thomas Göttlicher currently works on a research project about system management at SUSE. From 2007 to 2013 he served on the YaST Engineering team, first as a Developer, then as Technical Lead. Previously he was a UNIX and Linux Administrator; his first Linux server was running S.u.S.E. Linux 5.2. He holds a degree in Computer Science from the University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg.

YaST is a powerful system installation and configuration tool for your SUSE Linux Enterprise operating system. Every time you install SUSE Linux Enterprise, you come in contact with YaST. It assists you with partitioning and installs your desired programs. When you want to attach a new printer or add users to your system—YaST is the tool of choice.

Although YaST is quite popular—and even if you are very familiar with it—there are probably features you haven’t used. Here are some tips and tricks for using these very helpful but mostly unknown YaST features.

Hotkeys
The YaST Qt user interface offers hotkeys. [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Alt]+[X] opens an xterm window, which is very useful during installation if you want to run commands in the installation system.

For debugging purposes, you can press [Shift]+[F7] to set the debug level and [Shift]+[F8] to save YaST logs to a file. We recommend that you attach this information to bug reports because this allows developers to solve your bug faster.

Using the [Print] key, you can save a screenshot of the current YaST window.

Themes and Stylesheet Editor
YaST supports themes on its Qt user interface. There are several use cases where you may want to influence the style of Yast. You can adapt the look-and-feel of your corporate identity. Also, vision-impaired users can benefit from a high contrast style with large fonts.

The style is defined by stylesheets. These are very similar to well-known CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which are used to describe the style of web pages. There are two files in /usr/share/YaST2/theme/current/wizard/ — style.qss and installation.qss. These files contain the style information for YaST in the running system and during installation. You can place your own files there and set the environment variable $Y2STYLE accordingly.

Another useful feature in the stylesheet editor allows you to edit the YaST style on the fly. The key combination [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Alt]+[S] opens a window where you can change the CSS rules and see the effects on the UI in real time. It's a powerful feature which many designers like.

Even the ncurses text UI has basic theme support. The variable Y2NCURSES_COLOR_THEME in /etc/sysconfig/yast2 defines the used theme.

Driver Update
Another powerful feature is the driver update, which adds packages to your installation system. That's useful if you need additional drivers for special hardware or want to replace RPM packages with later versions.

It's not a big surprise that you need the packages themselves. You should put them on a web server. Additionally, you need a text file containing the packages' locations. For each package, specify one line like dud=http://foo.bar/package.rpm.

Name this file list.txt and store it on your webserver, too. When you boot from an installation DVD, you can specify boot options. Type info=http://foor.bar/list.txt at the boot prompt and press the [Enter] key.

If your packages are not signed with a known key, the installation will warn you that these packages might be insecure and ask if you want to proceed. When you agree, these packages will be added to the installation system.

Boot Loader Speaker
If you don't have a monitor or have a broken video card, you will be interested in the boot loader speaker feature. It's also useful for visually impaired users. Press [F9] at the boot screen, and it will read the menu entries to you.

Remote Installation
Your SUSE Linux Enterprise operating system can be installed remotely over the network. If your installation source is on an ftp or http server, you can specify its location at the boot prompt as follows: install=ftp://foo.bar/pub/suse or install=http://foo.bar/suse. At the same input field you can also set your host's IP address: hostip=192.168.1.1.1/24.

If your video card doesn't support graphics, you can also install your server from a remote location via VNC or SSH. In this case you add vnc=1 or ssh=1 to the installation's boot prompt. You should also provide a password for security reasons: vncpassword=suseinsider or sshpassword=suseinsider. As soon as your installation accepts remote connections via SSH or VNC, it shows a message that explains how to connect.

Macro Recorder
The macro recorder is a powerful feature QA testers and power users will appreciate. It doesn't act on mouse coordinates but records and plays user interactions on a logical level, e.g., once the user has entered “tux” into the username field and pressed the [OK] button. Macros recorded in the text interface also work in the graphical interface and vice versa.

You can start the macro recorder in every YaST module by pressing [ALT]+[CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[M]. YaST will ask you where to store the macro file and will start recording your actions. Press [ALT]+[CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[M] again to stop recording. [ALT]+[CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[P] plays the recorded macro.

These features may seem minor but by using them, you can further simplify your use of YaST and get even more value from your SUSE investment.

This is the first of two articles of tricks and tips for taking advantage of all YaST has to offer. The second in the series will focus on AutoYaST.


Troubleshooting with Supportconfig

Jason Record has worked for SUSE for 10 years supporting SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. He currently works as a front line SUSE mentor. He is also responsible for maintaining the supportutils package and developing the Supportconfig Analysis (SCA) Appliance.

Introduction
Supportconfig is the information gathering tool in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. It is provided by the supportutils package and is included with the distribution as of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP3. Supportconfig was designed not just to gather system information, but to incorporate these additional design objectives:

  1. Collect most system information pertinent to
    troubleshooting into one location
  2. Organize the information by topic
  3. Include command instructions for easy reproduction.

In addition to its primary features, there are some tips and tricks that can improve troubleshooting and supportconfig use.

Troubleshooting Information
By default, Supportconfig assumes you want to gather as much information as possible to narrow down and troubleshoot server issues. You don’t need to use startup options to get more information unless there is a unique circumstance. Supportconfig has a few options to gather additional information that is generally not needed. For example, the last 500 log file lines are usually sufficient to get an idea about an issue. If 500 lines are not enough, you can collect the entire log file, along with all other log files, using the -l startup switch. All files are saved using a *.txt file extension, which is understood on most architectures and operating systems to be opened by the default editor. All supportconfig files are saved into one directory. Once information is gathered, it is tarred and compressed. The default file naming convention is: nts_<hostname>_<date>_<time>.tbz. However, you can use any naming convention you want using the -B startup option.

Organization
Supportconfig is a bash script that runs numerous system commands and gathers log and configuration files. They are all saved into one directory location and grouped into topical files. For example, if you are troubleshooting a logical volume manager (LVM) issue, all related troubleshooting information will be saved in the lvm.txt file. The layout of each file is generally: RPM validation, service status, informational commands, configuration files and finally log files. The layout allows you to check basic information before moving on to more detailed information.

Command Instruction
As any Linux system administrator knows, Linux had a steep learning curve. There are many commands with just as many startup options. Supportconfig starts each command or file with a header #== string ==#. The header is followed by a commented string of the command and any startup options that will be used. Finally, the output of the command follows. If you ever need to reproduce the output of a command found in supportconfig, you can just copy the command in the comment line of the section you want. There is another advantage to writing the command to the log file before running that command. If supportconfig ever hangs, you can tail the file on which it is hanging and see the exact system command that is causing the problem. You can then run an RPM verify to see if that command is healthy.

Other Tips and Tricks
Supportconfig gathers a lot of information by default. You can limit the scope of that information using the feature list. Run supportconfig -F to list the features.

You can then toggle that feature state using -o [LIST], where [LIST] is the features from the -F output separated by commas. For example, supportconfig -o SAM would run a normal supportconfig but toggle the SAM feature. Most features are turned on by default, so SAM would be turned off in this case.

You may have a third-party application that has log and configuration files you would like to include in the supportconfig. Create /usr/lib/supportconfig/additional-files.list. Each line in the file should be the path to the additional files you want to include. All the listed files in additional-files.list will be included in the fs-files-additional.txt supportconfig file.

This last tip will save you a lot of money. Once your server is built and functioning properly, get a supportconfig and save its tar ball off the server. Whenever you make any major changes to your server, running a supportconfig before and after the change should be part of your change control process. When and if the server stops functioning as expected, you will have a working supportconfig to compare against the failing one.

 


Certification Update

Marjorie Westerman is a Marketing Writer at SUSE. She edits the SUSE News and The SUSE Insider.

YES Certified Hardware
SUSE YES Certification means that a hardware device has, through rigorous testing, been proven to be compatible with SUSE technologies. In addition, SUSE and its YES Certified hardware partners will work together to support you when deploying the vendor’s product in a SUSE environment.  SUSE offers Yes Certification for native environments for hardware and YES Certification with Virtualization for XEN and KVM virtualized environments.

Highlights
YES Certification for SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 SP3 products continues at a brisk pace. From September 1 through November 5 more than 350 networking servers alone—not counting device drivers, SAN drives, tape drives and workstations—were YES certified on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP3. IBM led the pack with more than 250 servers; also certified were servers from Cisco, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Intel, Lenovo, SGI, Supermicro and Toshiba.

In this same period almost 150 different workstations—from Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Intel and Toshiba—were certified on Service Pack 3. Hewlett Packard accounted for the majority (130 workstations). Meanwhile, certification of various types of hardware products on Service Pack 2 and earlier releases continues.

To find out if your hardware has been certified, visit here

Software Certification: The Ready Program for Software Partners
To ensure that the applications you need and want are certified to run on SUSE products, SUSE offers the Ready Program to help independent software vendors (ISVs) self-certify and communicate their "SUSE ready" status to customers via the Partner Software Catalog.

Highlights: PartnerNet and the Partner Software Catalog
The Ready process relies on the PartnerNet portal. To certify, ISVs can open an account on PartnerNet and receive benefits such as extended no-charge developer licenses for testing/certification and access to the Partner Software Catalog. Once an application is certified, ISVs can directly enter or update their ready status in the catalog and provide product information that highlights their solution value. Learn more

To find out if an application is certified and supported on the SUSE platform, go to the catalog and search by company or application name. If the application you want is not listed, contact your SUSE account executive, who can request that the SUSE ISV Relations team reach out to the ISV and introduce the Ready Program.

Currently, more than 11,400 software applications are certified to run on SUSE and listed in the Software Product Catalog. This number continues to grow as ISVs adopt support of the SUSE platform, and as we reach out to proactively communicate the benefits of SUSE partnership. Certified applications cover a breadth of industry verticals, from accommodation, agriculture, and arts to transportation and utilities.

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