Novell Service Desk v6.5 also brings with it a new deployment option; the virtual appliance

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Along with a host of new features and capabilities, Novell Service Desk v6.5 also brings with it a new deployment option; the virtual appliance.

There's a lot been written already about virtual appliances, addressing what they are and why they have become popular with software vendors and their customers. I'm not going to regurgitate all of the propaganda here, just to say that virtual appliance is a virtual machine with Just Enough Operating System ( JeOS ) to run an application. This simplifies deployment as the customer doesn't need to worry about installing the operating system, applying updates, pre-reqs etc... in a methodological way to the meet requirements set by the vendor.

To put it simply, virtual appliances are easier to deploy, avoid application installation issues and are a win-win for both the vendor and customer.

With Novell Service Desk appliance, you get a

  • Virtual machine built for ESX / ESXi servers delivered using the OVF format.

  • Uses cut down version of SLES 11 SP1 64-bit edition.

  • Configured Postgresql database.

  • Novell Service Desk 6.5 using the embedded Postgresql database.

  • Simple text mode menu system to manage the appliance, Novell Service Desk services and perform upgrades / migrations.

  • Ready to use as soon the deployment is finished. Typically this is sub 3 minutes.


And all of this in a download under 700Mb. Or as I like to think of it, 487 3.5 inch floppy disks ( for those too young to remember, this type of floppy disk had a hard case. So it was more like a semi-floppy. ).

Deploying the Novell Service Desk appliance is straight forward. Even a product manager like myself can do it.

Here's how we roll:-

  1. On a computer that has VMwares vSphere console installed, download the appliance from http://download.novell.com/Download?buildid=zLF3xLEsFSQ~ and extract the files into a folder

  • Load up your vSphere console and choose File – Deploy OVF Template

  • Click on Browse and go to the folder which contains the extracted appliance files. Select the OVF file, click on Open and then Next. The display will look something similar to this

  • Click on Next

  • Give the virtual machine a name and a location within your ESX setup. Then click on Next

  • Select a datastore to use. Click on Next

  • Now to choose how to provision the disk. I'd recommend Thick provisioned format. Click on Next

  • A summary screen now appears, click on Finish. With my lab setup, which is not at production level specifications, this took under 3 minutes. Or just enough time for a decent cup of tea to brew.

  • Go to the newly deployed VM and power it on.

  • Click on the Console tab as we need to tell our Novell Service Desk appliance that we agree with the EULAs ( both of them ), keyboard layout and finally the clock and time zone.

  • The appliance will then finish off the remaining first boot tasks. When the appliance menu pops ups, all is complete.

  • Now for some post deployment activities, namely networking information and ensuring that time is accurately kept.

  • The default setting for networking with Novell Service Desk appliance is to use DHCP. Although fine for end user devices, most organizations prefer to use static IP addresses for servers. At this time, we should also set the host name to our desired value rather than the random name which was generated during the first boot process. To do this, we use the appliance menu functions.

  • At the main menu, 1 – Appliance and then 2 – Alter Network Configuration. This causes YaST to be loaded at the point where network settings can be changed. Here you can set the IP address, hostname and enter a gateway address. When you've done all of this, press F10 to save and Exit and you'll be returned to the appliance menu.

  • Now select 3 – Alter Date and Time zone. This also causes YaST to be loaded to allow these options to be changed. Use the TAB key to move to Change within the Data and Time panel and then press the Enter key.

  • Select Synchronize with NTP server and enter pool.ntp.org for the NTP server address. Alternatively you can use any of the suggested external time sources or use an internal NTP server. Make sure that you select Save NTP Configuration and then press F10.

  • Press F10 again to return to the appliance menu


That's it. The appliance is deployed and ready to serve up Novell Service Desk. You now can point your browser directly at the IP address shown in the appliance menu or use the DNS name that you entered previously.

What next? Well that's the subject of the next article where we look at taking our first steps with Novell Service Desk.

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  • What about XEN, You know, the virtualisation platform that ships with your flagship OS????

    I'm always saddened/surprised that Novell favors VMWare whilst simultaneously ignoring it's own customers who have deployed XEN.

    Is it that hard to create virtual appliances that can run with XEN? (Hint: take a look at the features in OBS, it's a tick box!).

    I'm going to download the supplied VA and see if it can be made to work under XEN, if so, I can then help my/your/our customers to look at Novell Service Desk v6.5. It would be a "win / win" for both of us if i can make it work.

    If I can make it work, I'll post the steps required here. But only if you have the internal fortitude to allow this comment through.

    Regards
    Darren
  • Darren,

    I'd love to ship an appliance that supports every hypervisor that is in use by our customers. But reality jumped up and pointed out that only finite resources exist . Given that, we initially shipped with the hypervisor that has the largest market share.

    We did perform some minor testing with XEN and the appliance appeared to work fine. I'd welcome results from your experience

    Regards

    Jon Giffard
    Senior Product Manager
    Novell Service desk
  • Jon

    Thank you for posting my original critique and taking the time to respond.

    So far, I have the VA running well under VirtualBox (It was able to import the VA "as is" which is a very pleasing result).

    The main issue I'm having is that this I'm still unable to boot the VA under XEN (even as a "fully virtualised" image), but the weekend is coming so I'll be able to hunker down and do some solid testing.

    Darren
  • I'd certainly be interested in the XEN version if Darren can get it to work - I happen to be looking at Service Desk software to deploy at work at the moment. Since we have an XEN cluster that we run our virtual servers on, it would obviously be very convenient to be able to download an XEN version to test it out as opposed to having to setup a separate computer and install VMWare or virtual box on it!
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