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Suppose that for the last several weeks you have been submitting project proposals to be considered and hopefully included in the 2007 IT budget plan for your company. The overall plan has finally been pulled together and you have been summoned to the final IT budget review. As the meeting opens, your boss thanks everyone for all of the hard work they have put into the budget process. The first slide your boss shows on the screen is a comprehensive list of all the projects that had been submitted. Wow! Besides your projects, many others had been submitted and several had very important and strategic-sounding titles. As the boss moves quickly through the next few slides, you notice the overall dollar figure allocated to next year's budget seems huge, even though it is accompanied by phrases from the boss like "doing more with less" and how it really is possible to "squeeze blood from a turnip." With that much money on the table, you hope more than one of your projects will be funded.

As the final slide comes up, everyone starts to chatter. The normally calm IT demeanor becomes the chaos of dozens of startled exclamations and mini conversations. The title bar reads "Approved 2007 Budget Projects." Why the commotion? Below the title bar you read only three items:

  1. Upgrade Hardware to Support Microsoft Vista
  2. Renew Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (with software assurance)
  3. Roll out Microsoft Vista and Office 2007 (when they are finally available)

You can't believe your eyes. Every strategic project was being put on hold while the entire IT budget was being allocated to (or decimated by) one vendor. When the room is finally quiet, the boss steps back up and thanks everyone again for their hard work and opens the meeting up for questions. As the shock of the plan falls onto the crowd, one of the more senior IT administrators raises his hand. His question is simple: "Are you serious?" The boss' reply, which will forever echo through your mind, was both short and ominous: "What choice do we have?"

> You Always Have A Choice
The Novell Open Workgroup Suite was announced at Novell BrainShare 2006. It was highlighted in a recent article in the Novell Connection magazine. (See The New Novell Open Workgroup Suite in the 2nd Quarter 2006 issue or online at novell.com/connectionmagazine/2006/q2/suite_deal.html.) It represents a complete workgroup productivity solution from desktop to server and includes networking and infrastructure services, collaboration tools and resource and systems management–as well as an open desktop environment and office productivity suite. The industry has taken note, and many organizations are already deploying this open, cost-effective alternative to a Microsoft-based workgroup infrastructure. But understanding that other organizations want to make the shift in phases, this article will give you practical ideas on leveraging specific components of the suite to save money, increase flexibility and position you to take advantage of a full, open standards-based solution when the time is right.

If you're reading this article, you more than likely manage NetWare and/or Windows servers and use at least one other Novell solution, for example, GroupWise or ZENworks. You might have dabbled with Linux, extended or repaired directory schemas, and you know that the term GINA refers to a graphical interface for identification and authentication and not your coworker's girlfriend. Every day you arm yourselves to fight in the IT war being waged both inside and outside your company. The reason for battle is clear: The enemy is within the walls. But who or what is the enemy, and how can the Novell Open Workgroup Suite help you in your daily fight?

This is the first in a series of articles in which I will provide steps and strategies to help IT shops, both large and small, identify the enemy within their walls and win the IT war. We'll lay out a battle plan, or roadmap, to successfully get from point A to point B, utilizing many of the tools and solutions found in the Novell Open Workgroup Suite. The technologies included in the Novell Open Workgroup Suite empower you to make choices (rather than locking you in) while helping you be flexible as your IT landscape changes.

Now let's be honest: working in IT is really about minimizing disruption while maximizing productivity, all at a reasonable cost. This article focuses on what you can do today to shore up, extend and protect your current IT investments using just a few of the technologies found in the Novell Open Workgroup Suite; and do so without disruption to your users. In subsequent articles we'll discuss how you can best determine your blend of heterogeneity, and in the process, look for ways to significantly reduce your costs of owning and managing the desktop. I'll also show why the term "Workgroup" is a vital part of the Novell Open Workgroup Suite name, and how it can lead to greater productivity at lower costs.

Finally, I'll explore what it means to bring your company the benefits of Linux in the workgroup and how you can successfully get there.Now let's be honest: working in IT is really about minimizing disruption while maximizing productivity, all at a reasonable cost. This article focuses on what you can do today to shore up, extend and protect your current IT investments using just a few of the technologies found in the Novell Open Workgroup Suite; and do so without disruption to your users. In subsequent articles we'll discuss how you can best determine your blend of heterogeneity, and in the process, look for ways to significantly reduce your costs of owning and managing the desktop. I'll also show why the term "Workgroup" is a vital part of the Novell Open Workgroup Suite name, and how it can lead to greater productivity at lower costs. Finally, I'll explore what it means to bring your company the benefits of Linux in the workgroup and how you can successfully get there.

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles."

Sun Tzu

> Know the Enemy And Know Yourself
Who is the enemy that IT departments do battle with on a daily basis? According to Sun Tzu (a general who lived in the 6th century BC and was a contemporary to one of the greatest Chinese thinkers of ancient times: Confucius), it is vital to know who the enemy is so you can know how to fight to win. He wrote a very influential book on military strategy entitled The Art of War.

Some of you might wonder who the enemy is I keep referring to. No, the enemy is not Microsoft. The enemy relates to control, or rather lack of control over your IT infrastructure. In many cases, very unintentionally, an IT department is its own worst enemy. They continue down paths paved years before, without knowing the reasons why, or challenging the rationale for processes they follow. The first step toward fighting the enemy and regaining control of your infrastructure is to know yourself; meaning know what your IT infrastructure consists of. Doing this means bringing every device out of darkness and under management; knowing what every device consists of and where it is.

The Novell Open Workgroup Suite is comprised of several key server and workstation technologies and solutions. (See Hitting The Suite Spot.) The key to bringing every device under management is to install the ZENworks 7 agents on every device, specifically the Asset Inventory component. (See ZENworks 7 Components.)

Start Small
Asset Management is a fairly recent addition to the ZENworks suite of products. If you haven't used the Asset Inventory feature of ZENworks 7, then I recommend you start small. Asset Inventory has two different modes of deployment:

  • stand-alone
  • enterprise

The stand-alone deployment mode runs all of the server processes on a single machine, including an MSDE database which is used to store all of the collected inventory information. (See Figure 1.) The stand-alone deployment mode is good for evaluations and pilot projects. Even if you are familiar with Asset Inventory, you should start with a small sample of representative machines so you become familiar with the types of inventory you'll be collecting, and understand the potential customizations you might want to implement. As a part of the initial data collection, you can involve users in the processes. When a scan takes place, users can be prompted to enter indirect inventory information–such as the department or the user's phone number–you want included in the inventory details. Once you collect your first round of data, look at a workstation detail report to see if you like the level of detail you are getting. While Asset Inventory includes an extremely detailed database of commercial applications, it obviously won't recognize any applications that have been developed in house. By reviewing the FNI (Files Not Identified) section of the report, you can see what applications were found but were not matched to any known applications in the database. You can provide your own data to identify these applications so the applications will be recognized and reported on subsequent scans. Once you get your initial data collection the way you want it, expand your scope to include another group of machines, gather your new inventory, scrub and customize your data, and expand your scope again. There have been several articles in previous editions of Novell Connection magazine focusing on Asset Management and ZENworks. (See Manage Your Assets in the May/June 2005 issue or online at novell.com/connectionmagazine/2005/05/tech_talk_5.html.) The important thing to remember here is to start small, get your data sets configured the way you want and then expand out.

> Move Not Unless You See An Advantage
Once you have collected all of the inventory data for your environment, you can standardize all of your Windows systems on Windows XP. Why Windows XP? Surprisingly, Sun Tzu provides some insight.

"Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical."

Sun Tzu

In other words, if you're looking for a more open alternative to Windows in the long term, you shouldn't be spending money to upgrade it in the short term. With the impending (somewhere on the horizon) release of Windows Vista and Office 2007, where is the real advantage? Will Vista be a nondisruptive force, increasing productivity at a reasonable cost? Or are you more inclined to make the move to Linux, realizing the benefits that open standards bring to workgroup support and productivity? If this is the case, but you want to make the transition at your own pace, it's reasonable to secure your Windows XP environment and leverage additional life from it as you deploy SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop–also included in the Novell Open Workgroup Suite–in areas where it makes sense.

Once you've done this, as we'll discuss in future articles, you can gain additional flexibility and cost savings by replacing Windowsbased applications with open alternatives.

If, in your company, you see an advantage in upgrading certain desktops to Vista, the inventory data you collected with the Asset Inventory component of ZENworks 7 will be vital in determining which hardware in your environment is Vista ready, which hardware is Vista compatible and which hardware is Vista averse.

> Make Your Position Unassailable
Once you know what you have and moved your older Windows desktops to Windows XP or SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, it's important to secure your investment.

"The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable."

Sun Tzu

Is your current position unassailable? Have you ever been hit by an automatic update from Microsoft (SUS/WUS) that keeps you busy for days? Have you ever been infiltrated by a worm or virus because you failed to deploy an existing operating system patch? This is where implementing a Patch Management solution comes into play. Without a Patch Management solution in place, you could literally spend a full-time resource installing and updating patches in a medium-sized network of 1000 workstations and 10 servers all day every day (including weekends).

That's why the Novell Open Workgroup Suite includes the ZENworks 7 Suite, which delivers comprehensive server, desktop and handheld management tools. Also as a part of ZENworks 7, users get a 90-day evaluation version of Novell's Patch Management solution. You need to dedicate a machine to act as the patch server. The disk space requirements are fairly significant, because the machine serves as a patch storage machine, and some patches (like SP2 for Windows XP) can be very large.

For a small evaluation, 5 GB of free space on the server is sufficient. For a fully loaded patch server (which will handle up to 1000 devices), the server should have at least 20 GB of free space. If you're doing an evaluation, you can use MSDE 2000 (which is limited to 8 concurrent connections) that comes with the software. For a fully loaded patch server, MS SQL Server 2000 is required and the number of connection licenses needed are dependent on the size and frequency of the patching policies that are implemented.

Hitting the Suite Spot

Workgroup Components
Novell Open Enterprise Server
Novell GroupWise 7 (including GroupWise Mobile Server)
Novell ZENworks 7
SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop
Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org 2.0 for Windows
SUSE Linux Enterprise Server

Solutions
Server Operating System
Collaboration Solution
Resource and Systems Management Solutions
Desktop Operating System
Productivity Suite

Platforms
Heterogeneous platform support

Strike At What Is Weak
If you are not familiar with the Novell Patch Management solution, you will find it interesting, and extremely valuable, that the solution supports more than just operating system patches. Patches from multiple vendors including Microsoft, Novell, Adobe, Real, Macromedia, Corel, McAfee, Sophos, Authentium, Command, Oracle, Sybase, Citrix, IBM, Compaq, Dell, Apple, CA, Symantec, SAP and Norton are collected and distributed through Novell's Patch Management Solution. Like everything else Novell does, patching is policy-based and can be set up to automate compliance. The Novell Patch Management Solution simplifies and automates the entire patching process from obtaining the initial patch, which has already been validated, to testing, piloting and mass deployment of the patch into your infrastructure. (See Figure 2.)

"So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak."

Sun Tzu

Where are you weak? Do you know? Not only does the Novell Patch Management Solution support multiple vendors, it also supports multiple platforms–including Linux and Windows 98, which even Microsoft no longer supports. Similar to the Asset Inventory solution, the Novell Patch Management solution provides a series of robust reports providing detailed information on your infrastructure's current state with information on how you should proceed. As stated previously, information is power, and the information provided the Novell Patch Management solution empowers IT personnel to do their jobs more effectively.

Patching Costs Beyond 90 Days
Once the 90-day trial has expired, the cost to continue using the Novell Patch Management solution is $18 per device per year. That's $1.50 a month or about 5 cents a day per device. Compared with a fulltime resource needed for a medium-sized network of 1000 workstations and 10 servers, a little over $18,000 per year represents a sizable cost savings.

> Taking The Offensive
Charging blindly into the IT war can be fatal for your IT budget, detrimental to your user productivity and disruptive to your strategic position.

"Security against defeat implies defensive tactics; ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive."

Sun Tzu

The Novell Open Workgroup Suite gives you the ammunition to take the offensive. Initially, you can use the Novell Open Workgroup Suite to discover your assets, extend your investment and secure it while you deploy open alternatives in areas that make sense. This can easily be done with little or no disruption to your users or their productivity, at a very reasonable cost.

In the next two articles we will look into the next steps of how you can strategically apply other technologies and solutions from the Novell Open Workgroup Suite following this phased approach. We'll show you how you can reduce the sizable portion of your IT budget likely devoted to Microsoft Office by deploying the Novell Edition of OpenOffice.org, which, when acquired as part of the Novell Open Workgroup Suite, is supported on both Linux and Windows. We'll also discuss open alternatives to other common end-user applications. Finally, we'll cover strategies for replacing back-end technologies and tools that will save you additional money and prepare you for a Linuxbased environment. Migrating servers to Open Enterprise Server, switching Exchange to GroupWise on Linux and leveraging other components of the ZENworks Suite will all be covered. As a result, you'll see that you do have a choice when it comes to workgroup productivity, and that it can be open. So stay tuned! red N

ZENworks Suite Components
1 Desktop Management
2 Server Management
3 Handheld Management
4 Linux Management
5 Identity Manager Bundle Edition
6 Data Management
7 Novell Messenger
8 Personality Migration
9 Software Packaging
10 Patch Management
11 Asset Inventory


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