Iīm administrating SuSE Servers at work although weīre exclusively using SLES8 (thatīs the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8). Iīve never used the Standard Server but I donīt think thereīs much difference to the SLES8.
Hopefully I can clarify some of your questions.
1. How can I get the admin tools working? (also, do I need them? what is cyrus? where can I find documentation?)
The only admin tools we use are Yast2, and that to as little extent as possible. I think that it is best to learn to administer your server on the command line, try to use Yast only for things like initial configuration of your network card for example or software management.
SuSE has itīs own ways in dealing with configuration files. If you change configuration files by hand and then some other time change something with Yast it is likely that your self modified configuration files can be overwritten by Yast. And thatīs some kind of troubleshooting...
So do it with Yast or completely manual is my advice, but do it either way, not one time this and another time the other way.
And by the way Iīve never worked with Cyrus before, so I canīt give you any information on that. But as far as I know it is some kind of Mailserver (IMAP?).
2. Should I upgrade to 2.6? (also, what is United Linux? does Core 9 mean 2.6? is there a standard server 9? if so do I have to pay to get it? and what does it have on top of the core? finally, what do I get for my money from Suse apart from YOU?
I would advice against manually upgrading a Standard Server to any other kernel than the SuSE provided kernels. The server is delivered with 2.4 kernel, leave it with that. SuSE patches its kernels, so if you have to absolutely build a custom kernel, use the SuSE kernel sources provided with the server. Mixing vanilla kernels with a SuSE system might not be the best idea.
The new SuSE business products (SLES9 for example) are using 2.6 kernels by default. And there isnīt a Standard Server 9 at the moment, but maybe that will change in the near future.
So yes, Core 9 in some way means that thereīs a kernel 2.6 underneath it.
Novell has some kind of platform strategy which is as follows:
United Linux (1.0) was a "consortium" of several linux distributors (SuSE, Conectiva, SCO, Turbolinux) and was meant as a base for a unified enterprise linux. So every distributor took United Linux as the base layout and made his own enterprise distribution from it, hence the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 (SLES8). The base for this product is a United Linux system with components specifically added from SuSE.
So Core9 would be the base for the new Novell Linux enterprise products like the SLES9 and probably any other product soon to come (like a new Standard Server 9).
United Linux used kernel 2.4 as base, Core9 is 2.6 based.
You can download the new SLES9 as an eval version (for testing purposes for example), but if you want Support and - whatīs more important - patches, you have to buy a maintenance licence from Novell. And I would strongly recommend that for production servers.
What do you get for your money? Certification and support mainly for business products like Oracle databases or for EMC products (NAS/SAN) for example. If you need support from a vendor like Oracle or EMC youīll never get it until you use certified software and hardware (at least thatīs my experience).
And one last thing: Samba does not rely on any specific kernel version. All of our SLES8 servers are integrated into our Active Directory Domain for authentication, so thereīs no need to switch to a new kernel because of Samba.
Thatīs longer than I thought, I hope I could clear things up a little...