Let me tell you the situation.

I am a long-time linux user (5 years). I use linux almost exclusively both on the desktop and server both at home and at work. But not SLES. I use mostly Debian or Debian derivatives (Ubuntu, MEPIS, knoppix, etc).

I work at what you might call a "Novell shop". We use mostly netware on the servers (which our netware admins handle), with a few SLES9 and SLES10 boxes which I (being the "linux guy") must manage.

Now our netware guys are coming around to Linux, but of course being Novell fans they want it all to be SLES. They want me to change out all my Debian boxes to SLES just because it's SLES. I'm not happy about that.

I'm not trying to start a flame war or asking anyone to start listing off the advantages of SLES. I don't want marketing nonsense either. Some things I need to understand is:

1. Is there a way to use "online repositories" for software installation, a la debian's APT? I know I can copy the contents of the CDs to a server and share it via http or ftp, but I'm thinking more like a live copy with updates included.

2. Are there more official packages available than what comes on the CDs, or is that it? Do I have to use some questionable service like rpmseek to get stuff that's not on the CD?

3. Is it safe to administrate things by editing the config files, or is YAST going to overwrite my changes via suseconfig?

4. Can I do an online upgrade from SLES9 to SLES10? Or do I have to reinstall from scratch?

I guess what I need is a perspective on administering SUSE from the standpoint of an experienced (non-SUSE) linux admin, whereas most of the documentation is written for folks who live in the Windows world trying to switch over. Anyone have thoughts to contribute?