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Enabling Enterprise Linux with Novell Ximian Services

Articles and Tips: article

Adapted from a Ximian Sales Presentationand various product evaluation guides

01 Oct 2003

This AppNote introduces Novell Ximian Services (NXS) and related technologies that Novell recently acquired from the purchase of Ximian.


Novell Ximian Services, Red Carpet Enterprise, Ximian Desktop, Ximian Evolution, Ximian Connector, network management, desktop management, Linux, open source


Novell Ximian Services


network administrators, consultants, integrators



Prerequisite Skills

familiarity with Linux server and desktop environments



Sample Code



Linux servers and workstations are making more and more inroads into corporate computing environments. According to recent research, Linux is running on over one-fourth (27%) of corporate servers. By the year 2006, the installed base of Linux servers worldwide is expected to exceed 10 million and the number of Linux desktops worldwide will reach 28 million. In many organizations, Linux has already reached critical mass, finding applications in Web servers, file, print, and database servers, on technical desktops, and increasingly, on traditionally non-technical desktops.

The rise of Linux as both a server and desktop platform, however, has not been without its challenges. But eliminating these barriers to the widespread adoption of Linux has provided a prime business opportunity for Linux solution vendors. One such vendor is Ximian. Founded in October 1999, Ximian quickly became a key player in the Linux community. It is the manufacturer of a popular line of enterprise Linux products with an installed base of 1.5 million users and growing. To strengthen its position in the Linux marketplace, Novell acquired Ximian in August of 2003.

This AppNote provides an overview of the new Novell Ximian Services (NXS) business unit, along with a description of its products and technologies and how they can help overcome the barriers to enabling Linux at the enterprise level. It also briefly summarizes Novell's support for the GNOME and Mono open source projects

Overview of Novell Ximian Services

On 4 August 2003, Novell announced its acquisition of Ximian. The Novell Ximian Services business unit, based in Boston, will continue to develop the Ximian Desktop productivity application suite, Ximian Evolution groupware suite, Ximian Connector for interoperability with Microsoft Exchange, and Red Carpet Enterprise software management products. In addition, NXS will continue its role in the open source GNOME and Mono projects.

This acquisition demonstrates Novell's commitment to becoming a leading enterprise Linux solutions company and contributor to the open source community. It fits perfectly with Novell's cross-platform strategy that was launched in 1999 when we made eDirectory run on platforms other than NetWare. Since then, we've been steadily making our other solutions work across multiple platforms. In April 2003 we announced our plans to deliver all the network services we now provide on NetWare on both the Linux and NetWare kernels in the future. We've introduced key open source technologies in NetWare 6.5, including MySQL, Apache, Tomcat, and others. Now, Novell is stepping up with the Ximian acquisition to offer businesses a broader range of Linux server and desktop solutions, integrated with best-of-breed management tools, and backed by world-class support and services. It's all about giving customers a choice, letting them run the systems and platforms they want, and giving them the tools to manage and secure their environments cost effectively.

Linux Server Deployment Challenges and Solutions

As organizations turn to Linux to take advantage of its power, flexibility, and open source model, they face significant new software management challenges. Unlike typical closed source operating systems and applications, Linux operating systems and applications are constantly being refined and updated by vendors. OS updates, for example, are available weekly from most vendors, and some application developers deliver bug fixes for packages daily. The decentralized model for software development is one of Linux's key strengths; however, that benefit comes at a cost. Ximian research has shown that some Linux users are spending 5-10 hours per week manually updating and maintaining systems.

Other barriers to lowering the support and management costs associated with Linux servers include the following:

  • Past grass roots, decentralized adoption

  • Perceived lack of enterprise management tools

  • Costly and complex manual solutions

  • Impact of Linux administrative overhead on IT budgets

Whether you try to implement cumbersome home-grown manual or script-based methods for keeping your Linux environment up-to-date, or turn to expensive customized single-vendor solutions, valuable resources are derailed from the more important function of moving your business forward into the maintenance of basic infrastructure. What is needed is an automated solution for updating server and workstation software that combines cross-platform flexibility with a scalable, secure architecture. It needs to have an easy-to-use administrative interface, and power tools to dramatically improve administrator productivity. The system would also need to provide maximum security for the enterprise deploying it.

Here is a summary of the required attributes of the ideal software management solution:

  • Easy, intuitive installation

  • Internal ("behind the firewall") deployment

  • Cross-platform Linux OS compatibility

  • Centralized administration

  • Secure distribution of internally-developed and customized applications

  • Support for on-demand and pre-scheduled updates

  • Time-saving automation tools

  • Comprehensive software dependency and conflict resolution capabilities

The Novell Ximian Solution: Red Carpet Enterprise

The server-based Red Carpet Enterprise (RCE) is an automated, scalable solution that eliminates one of the most difficult and costly challenges facing administrators: deploying and maintaining Linux software standards across hundreds or thousands of company workstations and servers. It provides administrators with a secure, customizable software management solution that fulfills all of the requirements listed above.

Easy, Intuitive Installation RCE is easy to install; the entire process takes only about 30 minutes.

Internal "Behind the Firewall" Deployment RCE is deployed inside a corporation's firewall, so it is a completely secure solution.

Cross-Platform Linux OS Compatibility RCE simultaneously supports systems running a wide range of Linux distributions, including Red Hat Linux (7.3-9), Red Hat Enterprise Linux (AS, ES), SuSE Linux (8.2 and Enterprise Server 8.0), Mandrake 9.1, and more.

Centralized Administration From either an intuitive Web-based administration console or a scriptable command line interface, administrators can centrally configure and distribute software selections, manage users, and create group profiles of target machines for installations and updates. The task-based console can be accessed from Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or Mozilla browsers.

Secure Distribution of Internal and Customized Applications RCE provides the flexibility needed to distribute both internally-developed and customized applications to users. Administrators can build secure, private software channels containing their own internal or customized packages. Optionally, RCE customers can subscribe to access software and update selections from the broad Red Carpet public library of applications, including applications from Novell Ximian, Linux OS publishers, and other leading Linux vendors.

Support for On-Demand and Pre-scheduled Updates RCE enables organizations to automatically control the installed Linux software either on-demand or according to a preset schedule. Updates for workstations or servers can be initiated by users on an on-demand basis, or centrally scheduled using RCE's Autopull technology.

Time-Saving Automation Tools Using RCE, administrators can set up and maintain groups of desktop and server systems to receive software packages and updates. Software is organized into easy-to-understand channels, and a simple subscription metaphor is used to ensure that the right groups get access to the right software. RCE directly integrates with the Red Hat Network and SuSE YaST systems for enterprise Linux software updates. The Red Carpet Mirror feature keeps the RCE server updated with new software.

Comprehensive Software Dependency and Conflict Resolution RCE offers automated software dependency and conflict resolutions for systems performing RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) or dpkg (Debian package) software updates. When operating system updates or new versions of software are distributed, all potential dependencies and conflicts are analyzed and resolved to keep systems working through the update process. For scalability, dependency detection and conflict management is performed on the servers and workstations being updated, not on a single central server, so that updates occur smoothly even under heavy demand.

Other RCE Features RCE is designed with enterprise security in mind. The system runs entirely within a company's network. All communications between systems and RCE servers are secured and all packages are digitally signed. For extra control and flexibility, the Red Carpet Daemon provides a "roll back" feature to allow recovery of previously-installed software and associated configuration files. Its "lock down" feature provides control of packages that should be excluded from installation.

Linux Desktop Challenges and Solutions

In addition to its increasing use for enterprise application servers, Linux is rapidly gaining popularity as a desktop OS. It is especially attractive to organizations that want to retain control over their desktop environment and reduce the costs associated with software licensing, security, maintenance, and support. These organizations have typically adopted a multiple-vendor strategy to capitalize on the flexibility of open standards-based computing. The use of Linux as a corporate desktop standard allows strategic independence and freedom to choose the best solutions available to meet business needs. Customers that have adopted Linux-based solutions report up to 80% reduction in software licensing costs, better stability, and enhanced security that results in significantly fewer problems with virus and worm attacks. A recent Ximian study found that 70% of Fortune 1000 CIOs interviewed are considering deploying Linux on the desktop.

Linux Desktop Solution Requirements

As with Linux server adoption, there are certain requirements that must be met in order to overcome the challenges of switching to Linux at the desktop. These include the following:

  • Application Availability - To maintain productivity, Linux users must have access to the core productivity applications they need to do their jobs.

  • Usability - To reduce training and support costs, Linux solutions must provide familiarity for Windows users.

  • Integration - Linux users need to have an integrated desktop environment with a consistent interface across applications.

  • Interoperability - In order to eliminate the "two PC" problem, Linux solutions must be interoperable with existing corporate systems and support the same file formats, messaging and collaboration systems, and network protocols and file systems.

  • Manageability - It must be easy for administrators to deploy and manage software and security updates, as well as administer and lock down Linux clients.

  • Cost of Ownership - The Linux solution must significantly reduce the costs associated with software licensing, support, and training for users.

The Novell Ximian Solutions: Ximian Desktop 2 and Ximian Evolution

Ximian Desktop 2 (XD2) provides a complete productivity application suite with breakthrough usability features and seamless Windows interoperability to enable organizations to easily and affordably deploy Linux desktops in mixed Windows/Linux environments. Based on GNOME 2.2, XD2 delivers dozens of innovations including a intuitive interface, the Ximian Edition of for Microsoft Office file-compatible documents, one-click Windows network navigation, and easy printer setup to reduce training and support costs. Ximian Desktop 2 is supported on these leading Linux distributions: SuSE (version 8.2) and Red Hat (7.3, 8.0, and 9).

The new Ximian Evolution 1.4 is the premier personal and workgroup information management solution for Linux and UNIX-based systems. Ximian Evolution integrates e-mail, calendar, contact and task list management in one easy-to-use application. The application supports a broad range of Linux distributions and UNIX variants, including Red Hat 7.3, 8.0, 9; SuSE 8.2 and SuSE Linux Desktop, Mandrake 9.1, and Solaris 8.

Ximian Connector 1.4 is a client extension that enables Ximian Evolution to function as a Microsoft Exchange 2000/2003 client for e-mail, personal calendars, group calendars, global address books, tasks lists, and public folders. With Ximian Connector installed, Linux and UNIX users running Ximian Evolution can collaborate with co-workers using Microsoft Exchange, directly on existing Exchange 2000/2003 servers.

Features Overview

The Linux desktop solutions included in Novell Ximian Services meet all of the requirements outlined above for an effective desktop environment.

Application Availability Novell Ximian desktop solutions provide a complete desktop productivity suite. The desktop itself is provided by Ximian Desktop 2. E-mail, calendaring, to-do lists, collaboration tools, and information management are available in Ximian Evolution 1.4. Ximian Connector adds the ability to collaborate with co-workers running Microsoft Exchange and other messaging servers.

The enhanced Ximian edition of the suite allows users to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings that are compatible with Microsoft Office.

The included Mozilla-based Web browser provides all the latest tools for fast and easy Web browsing. (Another browser option is Galeon, a GNOME Web browser based on the gecko engine used by Mozilla.) With the XD2 Professional Edition, you get all the essential plug-ins to access virtually all print, media, audio, and video Web content: Adobe Acrobat Reader, Real Audio Real Player, Macromedia Flash Player 6, and Java 2 Run-time Environment.

In addition to the professional Bitstream fonts bundled with GNOME 2.2, XD2 includes MS-Windows compatible fonts from AGFA, so your applications, documents, and Web pages look their best. (AGFA fonts are available only with Ximian Professional Edition.)

You also get dozens of other applications and tools, including instant messaging (GAIM), conferencing (GNOME-Meeting), 3270 support (x3270), graphics and image editing (GIMP), and much more.

Usability With Novell Ximian Services, you get a real breakthrough in usability. The integrated desktop provides a consistent look and feel across applications for file management, printing, and other standard tasks. The GNOME 2.2 user interface features intuitive menus, dialogs, and windows that virtually eliminate end-user training requirements. Users can use familiar Windows keyboard shortcuts for saving files, copy/paste, printing, and more. The Control Center allows users to adjust system preferences for desktop themes, fonts, security, devices, and so on.

The essential task of printing is fast and easy with Novell Ximian Services. XD2 uses the Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS) to automatically detect printers available on the network. The Printer Setup Wizard speeds up the process of printer configuration. Users send and manage print jobs through the familiar print queue interface.

Other usability features include drag-and-drop CD burning and support for the Pango open-source framework for the layout and rendering of internationalized text.

Integration XD2 provides a tightly integrated working environment. It provides consistent navigation of files, content, and hardware on local systems and across the network. The My Computer feature provides one-click access to files, folders, systems, and more. Users can seamlessly browse, open, and save files on remote file systems, including Windows shares and NFS files through GNOME-VFS integration. And again, integration with the CUPS printing system makes printing simple.

Ximian Evolution,, and Galeon have been integrated to provide one-click opening of e-mail attachments, Web pages, and mailto links. As noted above, the Ximian edition of supports popular file formats and uses Microsoft Office spreadsheets, presentations, and word processing file formats by default. It uses the GNOME desktop theme and font settings, along with 800 new alpha-blended icons, for user interface consistency. Microsoft-compatible fonts are synchronized with the rest of the GNOME desktop. Support for Standards includes recent files, startup notification, and improved cut and paste.

Interoperability Novell Ximian Services provides top-notch interoperability with existing Windows environments. In addition to the default Microsoft Office file formats in OpenOffice, you get support for Network Neighborhood and one-click access to Windows systems, workgroups, and Samba shares, as well as data on UNIX NFS systems. Ximian Evolution supports IMAP, POP3, SMTP, LDAP, and other protocols for use with virtually any messaging server, and the optional Ximian Connector for Microsoft Exchange makes Ximian Evolution a full Exchange 2000 client for e-mail, group scheduling, personal calendar, public folders, global address lists, and more.

Manageability Keep your Ximian, Linux OS, and third party software up-to-date quickly and easily with Red Carpet 2.0. This built-in client for software updating integrates with the Red Carpet Enterprise software management system described earlier in this AppNote. With Red Carpet, managing your Linux desktop and server software is fast, easy, and efficient.

Cost of Ownership With XD2 and other Linux-based products, the cost of ownership can be significantly lower when compared with their closed-source counterparts. The commercial version of Ximian Desktop 2 is competitively priced, and a free open source version is available for download at

Continued Involvement in Open Source Projects

Upon hearing of Novell's acquisition of Ximian, there is one question that is on just about everyone's mind: Will Novell continue to support the GNOME and Mono projects that Ximian was helping lead? The answer is yes! These are among the more ambitious projects currently in the open source world, and Novell is committed to supporting them. In fact, it is expected that the addition of Novell's resources will help accelerate progress in these key open source initiatives.

The GNOME Project

GNOME is a free software project that is developing a complete, easy to use desktop for GNU/Linux (more commonly known as Linux), BSD, Solaris, HP-UX and a variety of other Unix and Unix-like operating systems. The GNOME desktop is used by millions of people around the world. More than 700 computer developers, including over 100 full-time, paid developers, contribute their time and effort to the project.

Novell is committed to GNOME as the basis for its Linux desktop endeavors. Current GNOME Foundation board members from Ximian will continue to serve in their roles.

The Mono Project

Ximian initiated the Mono Project to provide developers with a set of open source tools for building cross platform .NET applications that run on Windows or any Mono-supported platform, including Linux and UNIX. Mono incorporates key .NET-compliant components, including a C# compiler, a Common Language Runtime just-in-time compiler, and a growing set of class libraries, including ASP.Net and ADO.Net. More than 150 developers from around the world contribute to the Mono Project, and numerous companies are building commercial products using Mono technology. Existing Ximian resources will continue to provide leadership, address long-term projects, and handle complex tasks that require full-time focus.

Novell sees Mono as strategically important, especially to its Web Services strategy. With Mono technology, Novell can enable .NET applications to run on Linux, from Web sites and Web services to application servers, desktop applications, and even embedded solutions. This "develop on Windows, deploy on Linux" solution will dramatically improve developer productivity and help enable Linux/UNIX interoperability for emerging .NET applications and environments.

Impact of Ximian Acquisition on Customers and Partners

This brings us to the final question regarding Novell's acquisition of Ximian: What is the impact on Novell customers, as well as Ximian customers and partners?

Novell customers gain compelling new options for introducing and integrating Linux into their environments, whether at the server or desktop level. Customers want to deploy Linux because of cost benefits, control, customization needs, and a variety of other factors, but are concerned about support, integration, and management challenges. Novell provides enterprise class support, services, and tools to unify management of the network across platforms, including Linux. This is a great new option for Novell customers.

The Ximian acquisition also fits right in line with the development of Novell Nterprise Linux Services, as announced in June of 2003. Novell engineers have been working hard on moving the full range of Novell's network services onto the Linux kernel, and the acquisition will not have an impact on that effort. Ximian's existing solutions are largely complementary to what Novell has, so the acquisition of Ximian will strengthen the roadmap and offerings that Novell has previously outlined. Where there is potential overlap of some functionality--for example, ZENworks for Servers and Ximian Red Carpet, or Ximian Evolution and GroupWise--we'll meld the best features together. But we expect such overlaps to be minimal.

Ximian customers will benefit by the integration of Ximian products and their sales and support contacts being added to the world-class, global Novell sales and services organization. Ximian agreements in place with partners such as SuSE and IBM Global Services will continue under Novell. Both companies had been partners of Ximian and Novell respectively; the respective SuSE and IBM reseller agreements will be strengthened and simplified in the overall Novell relationship.


With the acquisition of Ximian, Novell takes a major step in strengthening its cross-platform strategy, supporting the open source community, and delivering open-source based solutions to its customers. The combination of Ximian and Novell will help to reduce the barriers to adoption of Linux in the enterprise by providing low-cost, high-performance, innovative Linux applications while giving the IT shops confidence they'll have the enterprise-class network management tools, interoperability and world-class support they expect from an experienced enterprise software company like Novell.

Ximian brings to Novell visionary leaders of the open source community and market-leading Linux products, and puts Novell in prime position to effectively engage with the open source community, including actively and strongly supporting the key Ximian-sponsored open source initiatives GNOME and Mono.

* Originally published in Novell AppNotes


The origin of this information may be internal or external to Novell. While Novell makes all reasonable efforts to verify this information, Novell does not make explicit or implied claims to its validity.

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