In a perfect world, all systems in a data centre are running the same Linux operating system, a homogeneous system landscape. In real life things are working differently. Windows systems are out of focus in this post, lets concentrate on Linux systems.
Most companies with a large Linux base are either RHEL shops or using SLES. A lot of RHEL users have some SLES systems running and so are SLES users running some RHEL systems. Some companies have additional systems running Debian.
How to handle those heterogeneous system landscapes? Those real world scenarios? Lets assume a company runs 500 RHEL systems, 20 SLES systems and some 10 Debian systems.
At the moment, for the base software management subscription such Linux users are spending a lot of money for RHN Satellite and SUSE Manager. Additionally there are per-system costs for management, provisioning and other modules. The Debian systems are handled manually. A lot of additional costs for a few out-of-strategy systems.
The solution is Spacewalk, the upstream project of the RHN Satellite which is at the same time the upstream for the recently released SUSE Manager. While SUSE offers support for RHEL systems, Red Hat does not (yet) offer support for SLES systems for RHN Satellite.
In Spacewalk Version 1.4 code contributions from SUSE are included and a student at Brno University of Technology contributed Debian support for Spacewalk as part of his master thesis.
While the support for SUSE is already quite stable, the Debian related code still have some rough edges. No wonder, SUSE is using RPM for its packaging wile Debian has its own packaging system. This makes it much easier for SUSE to get Spacewalk ready for its distribution.
At the moment, one can call the Debian support still as experimental, but the goal for the Spacewalk project is to have it fully functional in future releases.
The goal should be that both of the management system from the major enterprise Linux vendors, Red Hat and SUSE should support each others distribution for its Spacewalk based products. Debian is a niche player in the enterprise Linux environment and should also be supported by both products, RHN Satellite and SUSE manager. Nobody does expected to get system support for those distributions by the competing distribution, but having support for the management of it.