Novell Makes System Management Move With YaST

Novell will be using its new, GPL version of the YaST system-management package to boldly move into the world of network remote system-management programs.

Novell Inc. announced on Monday at its BrainShare tradeshow in Salt Lake City that it is releasing SuSE Linux AGs popular, open-source system administration tool, YaST, under the GPL. It is Novell/SuSEs plan and hope that YaST will become the platform that will tie together current system-management tools such as Novells own ZENworks, Hewlett-Packard Co.s OpenView, Ximian Inc.s Red Carpet Enterprise, IBMs Tivoli and Computer Associates International Inc.s Unicenter.

"We want to do with [Yet another System Tool] what Linux did for the operating system—that is, give partners and customers flexibility, choice and the best technology," said SuSE Linux CTO Juergen Geck. "YaST now becomes a tool for the community."

YaST had already been open source, but with the caveat that any business using it in a commercial distribution would have to sign a licensing agreement with SuSE. SuSE did this, Geck explained, because this was SuSEs "defense against being Mandraked." In other words, SuSE "didnt want our distribution to just be copied entirely and then sold by another vendor. We didnt want them to harvest what we had sowed," he said. He pointed out that people can always use YaST as individuals or in free distribution.

SuSE changed its YaST policy to show the General Public License/Linux community that Novell/SuSE is serious about playing by the GPLs free software rules. Another motivation for the move is that by putting it under the GPL, more open-source programmers will start working on YaST, thus improving the tool. This, in turn, should lead to a better program that will lead to more companies adopting it.

"Open sources is the better way of finding and putting out open standards," Geck said. "Standard committees take years, but with open source, its survival of the fittest code. People who think that open-source programmers are Communists dont know anything about open source. It is a Darwinism process."

Geck believes that The Debian Project—a project that supports the Debian open-source operating system and which is one of a number of projects run by the non-profit group Software in the Public Interest Inc.— will embrace YaST. But, Geck said, for its part, Red Hat Inc. isnt necessarily on-board. "I havent talked to them," he said. "Still, since we have RedHat Package Manager—a popular Linux package-management system—on every software package, I dont see any political reason for Red Hat to object to using YaST."

But Novell/SuSE has bigger plans for YaST than just popularizing it within Linux circles. The company wants YaST to become the center for system-management tools across multiple platforms. Technically, Geck said, SuSE will do this by working on a Simple Object Access Protocol interface to help integrate it with ZENworks, Tivoli, Unicenter and other remote system-management suites.

This isnt just a fancy notion. "Weve been aggressively pushing YaST to system-management companies," Geck said.

This plan has already met with some success with companies such as CA. "By providing a common, open, standardized platform for instrumenting the management of Linux systems, YaST provides a useful interface for customers seeking to build enterprise-management environments," said Sam Greenblatt, senior vice president and chief architect of the Linux Technology Group at CA.

"HP welcomes Novells efforts to offer an open-source tool that will complement the breadth and depth of HPs OpenView portfolio," added Martin Fink, vice president of Linux for HP.

The company will soon release the GPL version of YaST on Novell Forge. In addition, Novell is releasing the iFolder Project, a file-sharing solution for workgroup environments on the Mono/.Net framework for seamless integration into desktop environments.

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