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Bob Martens

Everything for No One


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I’ll See You at BrainShare 2014

I’m looking forward to being able to attend BrainShare 2014 at the beginning of November. I’ll be there spending as much time as possible learning about the mobile and file-sharing options from Novell and NetIQ and especially focused on our upcoming Novell OES migration.

Before that, however, I will have the opportunity to speak with my education IT friends at the TTP BrainShare Summit 2014 happening on Saturday and Sunday. I will also have the pleasure to speak there on Saturday. The title of the talk is SmallOps: My First Year in IT Operations at Martin Luther College, and much of it will be familiar to those who read this blog but I’ll post what I can after the talk.

It should be a good time and if you happen to see me, just grab me to say “hi”!

Novell Headquarters

The Futures of Novell and SUSE

I have no insider information, but as a heavy user of both Novell and SUSE technologies I do have an interest in what happens with both of the companies. A large portion of what I do every day replies on Novell and SUSE to function and any major change for either would mean many headaches and late nights as we work to move to different platforms.

No matter how well-intentioned both sides might be at the onset of any merger, there is going to come a time when the numbers are going to be looked at and a return on the initial investment is going to be expected. If there is no return, or the return is not big enough, then decisions are going to be made to rectify that. Many times that can manifest in layoffs and products being discarded into the heap of history.

I don’t know how well the Novell and SUSE portions of The Attachmate Group are doing, but the idea that some very good products could be discarded is disheartening. I don’t think it is a secret that Novell had been struggling mightily before its purchase, and I don’t know how the company is really doing now but I’m fairly certain that it is probably not as large as it was when initially purchased. SUSE has been spun off (which I think was a net win for everyone) and some of the products once shepherded by Novell are now under the care of NetIQ (which might make sense to some), which leaves Novell with only a portion of its prior product portfolio. A smaller company might be more focused, but it also leaves it a smaller company.

My fears for the two main companies I work with on a daily basis are distinct:

  • For Novell, I fear resources continuing to get split off into other groups. I fear Open Enterprise Server getting tossed onto the back burner just as the roadmap has some excellent things being added (not to mention what SUSE is doing with SLES in the future). I fear that the work to consolidate ZENworks into a single, coherent platform is going to get slowed down just when it looks like a product that could be used to manage the entire swath of computing platforms from desktops to phones and everything in between. I fear Vibe continuing to be ignored and Service Desk never getting a fair shake. Some of these things might have happened anyway, but now the fear is there are the surface.
  • For SUSE, I fear any hint of the company keeping things for themselves and retreating from the open source community. I fear technology becoming secondary to short-term profits. I fear SUSE not continuing to push forward as fast as possible as more uncertainty comes into the pictures again. The splitting of Novell and SUSE has been nothing but a boon for SUSE as it has been able to forge ahead with its own identity and I fear it being swallowed again or its distinctive brand being lessened.
  • For the entire purchase, I’m a little fearful of the companies being public again. Being a public company is not always a positive thing for the products being worked on. Just this week HP announced a splitting of the company into two distinct pieces, Dell has gone private, Microsoft has a new CEO, IBM has a new CEO, and Oracle will have a couple of new CEOs. There is a lot of uncertainty in technology right now and I fear this is another small part of that.

Is it all doom and gloom? Not necessarily. I think that if this turns out similar to the The Attachmate Group changes, then it could be an overall good thing for everyone involved, but any merger-and-aquisition is difficult and this one will be no different.

I wish everyone the best of luck and look forward to both SUSE and Novell being a major partner at Martin Luther College.

HP Campus

HP is Splitting Up

HP is splitting up. HP as we know it today will be split into Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc.

HP Inc. will handle the personal computers and printers and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will take care of servers, storage, software, and services. For me, I’m imagining I will have more to do with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (and I’m hoping their ProCurve line of networking gear will continue to be excellent).

Definitely interesting times when Microsoft and Oracle change CEOs, Dell goes private, IBM sells their X86 server business, and HP is splitting into two. The tech industry is getting shaken up and who knows what it will look like in a short time.

VM Servers

Converting Xen Appliances for XenServer Import

It is no secret that we use many Novell technologies at Martin Luther College to enable our faculty, staff, and students to get their work done. I’ve blogged about such things many times and I’ll be continuing to do so in the future. I have plans to bring Filr and ZENworks on campus soon to alleviate some specific needs we have and I have already deployed the new iPrint here to serve as part of our printing solution.

All three of these solutions have one things in common: they are available as virtual appliances for ease of deployment.

However, one hitch is that Novell only provides appliances for three virtualization platforms: VMware, Hyper-V, and Xen. XenServer, our platform of choice, is the one that is missing. The bare Xen image won’t do, initially, because it provides nothing more than a raw disk image and a configuration file.

Initially I just used the VMware image provided as an OVF which imported into our XenServer infrastructure just fine but was incomplete. I could not easily get the XenServer Tools installed and I still wanted to get the paravirtualized kernel so that I get some optimizations within XenServer. I also cannot easily take advantage of the high availability features of XenServer without the tools installed.

Workable, but no ideal.

This is how we are currently running the latest iPrint appliance (currently version 1.1). It has been working extremely well, but if I can find a way to run things in a more optimized way, I’m all for it. So I spent a day in IRC asking how I might be able to convert a Xen image to something more amenable to XenServer import.

Enter A simple Python script “… to aid the migration of xend based Xen virtual machines to XenServer and Xen Cloud Platform.” That would do it! So I moved onto attempting the conversion of the Filr 1.1 appliance that was just released!

All of these steps are being done on Apple OS X but most steps should be transferable to any UNIX-like system. So let’s do this!

  1. Download the wanted Xen appliance from the Novell site. I chose Filr 1.1 as my test appliance because I want to test Filr.
  2. Unarchive the download. You should have a folder with a raw disk image and a xenconfig file. My Filr disk image is 21+ GB in size once it is expanded. The xenconfig file is only 179 bytes.
  3. Open your terminal application of choice and move into that newly created appliance folder.
  4. Grab and drop it into your appliance folder. I used curl > to just grab it directly from the site. I have also made a local copy so that I have it for the future.
  5. Now is the fun part. Make sure you have enough free disk space to handle making a copy of the disk image. Also, make sure that is within that appliance folder. It will just make things easier.
  6. Next I ran the following: python -c Filr.x86_64- -f Filr.x86_64- which will inspect the image and then output the whole thing as an XVA for import into XenServer. The xenconfig file contains the name of the disk image and other parameters needed, so you don’t need to include those.
  7. Now you wait.

When it is complete you will have a new XVA file that you can import through XenCenter into your XenServer infrastructure. Logging into the appliance later will allow you to install the XenServer Tools.

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