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SUSE Manager allows administrators to manage configurations on SUSE, as well as other Linux distributions. Last year, SUSE released SUSE Manager 3, which is a radical departure from previous versions of the tool.
SUSE created SUSE Manager for lifecycle management of Linux computers. These may be physical or virtual computers that run SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) or Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). SUSE Manager allows administrators to more easily deploy SLES or RHEL, manage software and configuration on these platforms and take inventory of machines that run in their environment.
SUSE Manager 3 brings Salt integration
Until SUSE Manager 3, the tool was based on Spacewalk, which is the same upstream project that Red Hat uses to create its Red Hat Satellite management tool. Both companies have gone a different direction, though; SUSE Manager is no longer just built on Spacewalk. In SUSE Manager 3.0, SUSE has extended Spacewalk to use Salt as the orchestration engine.
Salt is a configuration management system, like Ansible, Puppet and Chef. It can push configurations to managed servers, or pull configurations from them to ensure the configurations match their desired state. Salt components are integrated into SUSE Manager with the Salt command-line interface and through the SUSE Manager web interface. Salt works with agents -- known as "Salt Minions" -- that should run on managed servers, but can run in agent-less mode, as well, if you use the SSH push feature.
To manage servers that use Salt, install a Salt Minion. This procedure remotely resembles that of server registration with SUSE Manager in previous versions -- you'll need to install a bootstrap script on the managed server, and then apply an activation key.
Salt integration has been a work in progress since the initial release of SUSE Manager 3. In that release, many options were available from the Salt client command line only. In the current version, 3.0.3, you'll see further integration, and can find most of the important Salt functions in the SUSE Manager web client.
More than just SLES
Compared to similar tools, what stands out about SUSE Manager is its range of supported products. SUSE Manager 3 works with SLES as well as native RHEL, but also with other SUSE products such as SUSE Cloud and SUSE Storage. Previous versions of SUSE Manager were only able to manage RHEL if updates were managed by SUSE in the SUSE Expanded Support offering. Since the release of SUSE Manager 3, native RHEL 6 and 7 are supported as well.
Software package management
Software package management has been available in SUSE Manager since the earliest releases. It's a key feature that IT teams widely use. With software management, administrators can implement staged software deployment and obtain full control over the packages that are made available to servers. To do so, SUSE Manager 3 works with channels that offer access to the software from repositories.
A software management channel typically corresponds to the subscription of a customer's specific software. Within these subscriptions, all available packages download automatically to the repositories in SUSE Manager, from which managed servers will install software. This provides two benefits. First, the managed servers no longer need to access the internet to fetch software updates. Also, the SUSE Manager admin can create customer channels and repositories, in which only tested and approved packages will be available.
If you've worked with previous versions of SUSE Manager, you won't notice much difference in the management of software packages. The Salt integration mainly takes place in the background, and software management for the most part is still based on Spacewalk.
The Salt integration in SUSE Manager 3 brings other, more advanced options, such as the ability to run scripts to perform complex tasks on managed nodes. Still, if you've mainly worked with past versions of SUSE Manager to manage software packages, you'll notice that the procedure is still similar, overall, to what it was.
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