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Got Skills? Bridge Them to Linux

Articles and Tips:

Kendra Dalin

01 Jan 2006

Are you familiar with Novell NetWare? My guess is that the very question makes you snort: "Of course I'm familiar with NetWare," you're probably saying (in that "duh" tone). And so you are. In fact, I'm willing to bet that you're more than just familiar with NetWare. At this point, you're as comfortable with NetWare file, print and Web services as you are in your favorite pair of old jeans. The thought of parting with either--those trusted NetWare services or your holey jeans--might even make you cringe.

If so, I have good news, although admittedly not mint news: the NetWare services you've grown to know and love are also available on Novell Open Enterprise Server for Linux. What's more, getting Open Enterprise Server for Linux up and running--and making sure that it stays that way--is easier than you might think, particularly if you've already honed your network administration skills on NetWare.

This article is the first in a nine-part series designed to help you bridge your NetWare skills to Open Enterprise Server for Linux. The series seeks to demystify the process of deploying and managing Open Enterprise Server for Linux. To this end, many of the articles in this series demonstrate how to accomplish the administrative tasks on Open Enterprise Server for Linux that you're accustomed to performing on NetWare.

This series is based on a new Novell training program: Bridging NetWare Skills to Open Enterprise Server for Linux, which is available online. This is an introductory course featuring a set of 10 training modules (plus an introduction) presented in Flash streaming video and accompanied by slides and exercises for each module.

At the end of the online course, you can take a test to assess your current understanding of Open Enterprise Server for Linux. The results help you determine which courses in the Novell Certified Linux Professional and Certified Linux Engineer tracks you need to take to fill in the gaps that linger in your Linux foundation. If you score a 70 percent or better on this self assessment, you'll be entered into a monthly drawing for an Apple iPod nano. (See the aforementioned Web page for details.)

Now, we can't give you an Apple iPod (alas); however, we can give you a convenient, consolidated and abridged version of the same information presented in the training program. Therefore, if you decide to complete the online training, these articles provide a convenient one-stop-shop for either a preview or a review of the information presented in each module. If you decide not to complete the online training (who wants an iPod anyway?), reading these articles provides a quick way for you to get the same essential information.

Figure 1

In keeping with the training program, this first article launches the series with a brief history of Linux, an explanation of open source and a discussion of the relationship between Novell and Linux. The information covered in the rest of this series is:

  • Introduction to Linux fundamentals and basic commands

  • Overview of Open Enterprise Server for Linux and its installation

  • Comparison of NetWare and Linux commands and tasks

  • Comparison of NetWare and Linux server management tools

  • Overview of the Linux file system

  • Discussion of monitoring the operating system

  • Tips on building a Linux training plan.

Remember, this series (like the online training program) is only an introduction to Open Enterprise Server for Linux. To deploy and smoothly manage Open Enterprise Server for Linux you'll need more--more skills, more knowledge. The last article in this series provides tips on where you can go to advance your Linux skills, improve your marketability and gain on Linux the depth of knowledge you currently have on NetWare.

To take your first step on this journey from NetWare to Linux, read on.

The Linux Chronicle

According to Ron Terry, "an advanced technical training instructor history of UNIX because [the two] are so closely related."

AT&T Bell Labs developed UNIX, beginning in 1969, as a proof-of-concept operating system, the source code for which was available at a relatively low cost. Hence, not surprisingly, the operating system quickly gained popularity among colleges and universities. As UNIX-trained students graduated and moved into the industry, commercial versions of UNIX began to appear. At about this same time, AT&T started charging a rather high licensing fee for UNIX. Ultimately, licensing issues and quarrels between UNIX vendors prevented a genuine standardization of the UNIX operating system.

As an alternative to the now high-priced UNIX, many colleges and universities turned to MINUX. (In case you're interested, Professor Andrew Tanenbaum of Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam developed MINUX, but you don't really need to know this.) MINUX had a small, well-documented microkernel-based design and the complete source code was made available with the system. This code was available to see for educational purposes, but "you really couldn't do anything with it," as Terry explains.

The best known student user of MINUX was Linus Torvalds, the Finnish university student who decided to start his own pet project. Linus wanted to make a MINUX-like operating system with source code that anyone could use, borrow and change. To that end, Linus sent a now-legendary post to the MINUX news group in 1991 that read as follows:

From: torvalds@klaava.Helsinki.FI (Linus Benedict Torvalds)

Newsgroups: comp.os.minix

Subject: What would you like to see most in minix?

Summary: small poll for my new operating system

Message-ID: 1991 Aug25.205708.9541@klaava.Helsinki.FI

Date: 25 Aug 91 20:57:08 GMT

Organization: University of Helsinki

Hello everybody out there using minix - I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things). I've currently ported bash(1.08) and gcc(1.40),and things seem to work. This implies that I'll get something practical within a few months, and I'd like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promise I'll implement them :-)

Linus (

PS. Yes - it's free of any minix code, and it has a multi-threaded fs. It is NOT portable (uses 386 task switching etc), and it probably never will support anything other than AT-harddisks, as that's all I have :-(


From this little post, Linus' project took off, and developers worldwide joined in over the Internet to help develop the operating system kernel called Linux. Linus published this newly minted child of the Internet under an open source license called the GNU General Public License (GPL).

Distributions Are the Kernel and More

Strictly speaking, Linux is an operating system kernel--no more, no less; however, today, the term Linux typically refers to Linux distributions. At the heart of any Linux distribution is the Linux kernel, with which individuals or groups then bundle additional software to ease Linux installation and facilitate application integration.

Figure 2

Some of these distributions are available on the Internet to download at little or no cost. Other Linux distributions are commercially supported, such as Novell SUSE Linux. Vendors of commercial Linux distributions charge users for the added value of hardware and software certifications, maintenance and support. (For more information on Linux history, see Novell Senior Research Engineer Kevin Burnett's article, Linux: The 'Other' Operating System.)

Open Source--It's Not Like Free Beer

To better understand Linux, you need first to understand the concept of open source software. (For a list of some of the advantages inherent to open source software, see The Upside of Open.) At the very least, open source software is software that is distributed not only as a compiled program (which only machines can read) but also with its source code freely available. (In other words, its source is open; hence, its name.) With its source code freely available, anyone who purchases or otherwise acquires open source software is free to see how it works, change it and even redistribute it.

The availability of source code separates open source software from closed source software, for which vendors publish only the compiled program, keeping the source code as a trade secret.

Sometimes open source software is referred to as "free" software. "Free," in this case, refers to the availability of the source code. "Free" does not necessarily mean no cost, although, some open source software is in fact available free of charge. Among open source fans, the catch phrase that succinctly explains this definition of "free" is that open source software is "free as in 'free speech,' not as in 'free beer.'"

Like any closed source software, open source software is copyrighted. Rules and regulations regarding the distribution and modification of open source software are detailed in a license that accompanies the software. The terms of these licenses must comply with a minimum set of criteria. (For more information, see The Open Source Definition.) Among other things, these licenses specify the circumstances under which the software may be modified and whether the results of these modifications must also be published as open source software.

The best known--but not the only--open source license is the GNU GPL. The GNU GPL specifies that if you develop new software based on source code protected by the GPL, then you must publish your new software also under the GPL. The whole point of the GPL is to ensure that the code remains open and freely available for all to read, borrow and change.

The Novell Connection

Why is Novell interested in Linux? The short answer is because Novell saw interest in Linux swell years ago and wisely chose to ride the wave. Over the past four years, the rate of Linux adoption has increased at a strong and steady pace. In contrast, the rate of adoption of Windows, UNIX and NetWare has dropped at a slow but equally steady pace. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 3

As you know, Novell helped found the networking industry with the introduction of its own proprietary software, Novell NetWare. When Novell noticed the increased interest in Linux, it responded with efforts to port its products and services, which traditionally ran only on NetWare, to other operating systems, particularly Linux.

To jumpstart its Linux efforts, Novell acquired some high-profile Linux companies, including Ximian and SUSE Linux. Ximian technology gave rise to the Novell Linux desktop and helped in the development of products and tools for distributing, maintaining and administering software. With its long (perhaps the longest) history as a commercial Linux developer, SUSE Linux gave Novell a very strong (and very popular) Linux distribution off of which to build its products. (See Figure 2.)

Today, Novell is a Linux company with Linux solutions for all market segments. In the data center arena, Novell provides solutions built on top of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. For the desktop segment, Novell offers Novell Linux Desktop. For workgroup computing, Novell provides all of its rock-solid, world-renowned networking services on both the NetWare and Linux kernels in Novell Open Enterprise Server for NetWare and Novell Open Enterprise Server for Linux, respectively. (See Figure 3.)

Taking Stock

If you were to take the training program on which this article (and the rest of the articles in this series) is based, you would be expected at this point to have some answers to a few basic questions, namely these:

  • What is Linux?

  • What is Open Source?

  • What is Novell's main workgroup solution on Linux?

Additionally, you'd be expected to do a little more reading (see Recommended Reading) and to present a list of solid business reasons for choosing Novell for Linux. (For more information on that point, see Good Cents.)

In the next article, you'll learn a few Linux fundamentals and be introduced to some of its basic commands.

The Upside of Open

Open source software has several inherent advantages, including these:

  • Peer review by programmers from all over the world strengthens the code.

  • Continued scrutiny increases the speed at which bugs, back doors and security holes are detected.

  • Availability of source code enables others to learn.

  • Project openness enables programmers to contribute their own unique strengths and to modify the software to suit specific needs--without having to wait for when or if the vendor makes the change.

Good Cents

As a network administrator, you might frequently face the task of justifying your interest in various products before being granted the permission to purchase them. Suppose then that you're interested in Novell for Linux. What business reasons support your interest? Novell can give you 10. (For a full version of the list below, see Ten Reasons Why to Choose Novell for Linux.

  1. As a billion-dollar global company with a 20--year history of delivering enterprise--class software, Novell has both the technical and business expertise to understand your span of needs--from IT architecture to industry-specific challenges.

  2. With one common Linux code base, Novell offers everything your enterprise needs to successfully transition its IT architecture to Linux at a pace that feels most comfortable.

  3. Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 has achieved the highest level of security and operations certification ever achieved in the Linux market: Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL) 4+.

  4. With Novell, support is available 24x7x365 from more than 700 Novell support technicians. Support options are flexible enough to allow you to choose--and pay for--only the services you need.

  5. Novell Training Services and Novell Authorized Training Partners offer the only end-to-end Linux curriculum portfolio.

  6. Hardware providers such as Dell, HP and IBM have certified SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 on their platforms. Additionally, thousands of applications and packages--including Oracle, IBM DB2, MySQL, SAP, Symantec/VERITAS, BMC, JBOSS and WebSphere--are certified to run on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9.

  7. Only Novell offers a robust suite of applications that run natively on a Linux platform.

  8. By choosing Novell as your Linux vendor, you immediately gain access to nearly 4,500 Novell solution providers, valueadded resellers, technology partners and training partners.

  9. With the acquisitions of SUSE, Ximian and Immunix, Novell has some of the industry's most talented open source engineers.

  10. Novell has more than two decades worth of experience in delivering enterprise-class software, support and services.

Recommended Reading

For more information about Linux, open source software and Novell's commitment to both, Novell Training Services recommends that you check out these articles and Web sites:

  • Linux: The 'Other' Operating System


  • Ten Reasons Why To Choose Novell for Linux

  • Novell Jump-Starts Linux Drive into Small and Medium Businesses

  • Unbending the Truth: Things Microsoft Hopes You Won't Notice

  • Total cost of ownership white paper, product brochure, and news and reviews.

* Originally published in Novell Connection Magazine


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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