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Subscription Prescription

Novell IS&T manages 1,500 SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop desktop subscriptions with the
Subscription Management Tool for SUSE Linux Enterprise

If you operate a significant Linux environment you already know that managing registrations, subscriptions and software updates can easily eat up time and network bandwidth. It can complicate your firewall policy compliance and even compromise security.

But did you know that a convenient, easy-to-use and fully supported tool for Linux subscription management is now bundled with Service Pack 2—one that’s tightly integrated with both Novell Customer Center and Novell Update. The default configurations for new SUSE Linux servers and desktops require regular, direct connections to Novell Customer Center and Novell Update so that each system can register for entitlements and download updates.

The Subscription Management Tool for SUSE Linux Enterprise is a package proxy system that mirrors Novell Customer Center and Novell Update at your site, inside your firewall. It provides a local update repository identical to Novell Update, and a registration target synchronized with Novell Customer Center. By downloading updates once for subsequent distribution over the local network, Subscription Management Tool reduces WAN congestion and enables more restrictive firewall policies. It lets you manage registrations and entitlements and monitor subscription use for all your SUSE Linux Enterprise servers, desktops and point-of-sale devices running Service Pack 2 or subsequent releases, while preserving the familiar Novell Customer Center interface and all of its functionality. (See Figure 1.)

The Subscription Management Tool is in no way a substitute for an enterprise systems management solution such as Novell ZENworks Linux Management. It lacks the granular distribution controls and broader systems management capabilities. But where lightweight rights tracking and update management are the primary objectives, Subscription Management Tool offers a streamlined, cost-effective solution.

Deploying Subscription Management Tool at Novell

Lightweight subscription management was exactly the challenge facing Novell IS&T, which manages more than 1,500 SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop systems located in three major campus sites and more than 20 sales offices worldwide. The group’s legacy solution, a custom Novell ZENworks Linux Management build, was diverging from the product sold and supported by Novell.

With a largely technical user population, the team didn’t need focused desktop management, but did require a new update management solution that would provide staging and testing both for SUSE Linux Enterprise and other Novell applications, including Novell GroupWise, Novell GroupWise Instant Messenger and Novell iFolder. When Subscription Management Tool became part of Service Pack 2, the team gave it a try. Simon Crute, Linux Services Manager, describes the installation process they followed and the customizations they developed for the distributed environment at Novell.

Subscription Management Tool Step One: Install and Configure

“We began by setting up a new SUSE Linux Enterprise server,” Simon explains. “We installed Service Pack 2 on a dual-core Xeon system with 4GB of RAM and 750 GB of disk space. Subscription Management Tool installs as an Add-On Product in YaST. Go to Software and Add-On Product, then select Local Directory and ISO Image and browse to the correct ISO. YaST then offers to install the product and resolve all dependencies for you.” (See Figure 2.)

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Once installed, Subscription Management Tool needs to be activated against Novell Customer Center. This requires the acquisition of mirroring credentials from Novell Customer Center through a process described in detail in TID 3612166, which is available online.

Step Two: Selecting Which Catalogs to Mirror

With Subscription Management Tool running and connected to Novell Customer Center, the next step was to decide which update catalogs to mirror locally. Because Service Pack 2 had just been released, IS&T was supporting a mix of SP1 and SP2 desktops and servers. “Several catalogs are available for each product,” Crute said. “There’s an online catalog of packages for migrating older systems to the current service pack, a pool catalog of base packages for the current service pack, and an update catalog containing packages released since the current service pack’s initial release.”

The team elected to carry all three catalogs for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10-SP1 and SP2, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10-SP1 and SP2, for both the i586 and x86-64 architectures. The command that controls catalog mirroring in Subscription Management Tool is smt-catalogs. Run by itself, it displays the available catalogs and architectures. The smt-catalogs ?grep sled command displays all SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop catalogs, and the smt-catalogs sled10-sp1 command shows the architectures available for each.

Enabling mirroring for all three SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10-SP2 catalogs required three commands:

  • smt-catalogs sled10-sp2-pool -e
  • smt-catalogs sled10-sp2-online -e
  • smt-calatogs sled10-sp2-updates -e

Each command elicites a prompt listing the available architectures.


  • Figure 1

    The Subscription Management Tool for SUSE Linux Enterprise is a proxy server that mirrors Novell Customer Center and Novell Update, providing local registration, subscription management and update distribution services.

  • Figure 2


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