Coming of age for Linux systems management

ITworld.com |  Operating Systems

Lack of high-level system and network management tools could inhibit growth as more
businesses look to use Linux in their operations. Many in the ranks of Linux adherents
may welcome the hands-on control of system management based on command lines, but the
same tools may put off some veteran IT managers.

Those hands are familiar with the relatively high-level tools available for
mainframe, Unix, and Windows system management, and they may take a wait-and-see
attitude on full-scale Linux deployment until more robust alternatives appear.

The companies trying to carve out a living as Linux suppliers, as well as some more
familiar industry players, are working hard to fill that need. Among the former are
companies such as Caldera Systems and VALinux, both of which recently released software
for Linux system management. Taken with other events, the releases may indicate that
Linux system-management adolescence, if not full maturity, is upon us.

For its part, upstart Caldera has released its Linux Management Solution, formerly
known as cosmos, into open beta. Intended for IT shops that need to manage multiple
servers and workstations, the tool is a browser- and directory-based management product
for Linux systems. Caldera has long counted itself as a leader in Linux management
solutions. It offers Webmin (a Web-based admin tool), Lizard (a Linux installation
wizard), and the Caldera Open Administration System (COAS).

Caldera hopes to capitalize on use of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol
(LDAP) in its latest product rollout. The hierarchical, industry-standard directory is
said to be highly scalable. It supports remote management of various networked Linux
operating systems distributions.

Even Caldera advocates such as Mike Wilkinson, Caldera's product line manager, admit
to drawbacks in the present state of Linux system management. For example, if a hosting
company has 19,000 Linux servers, an administrator must "touch every box" to do a
security upgrade, Wilkinson said. But with the Linux Systems Management tool, the user
can work at a console, and a security update will filter down through all the sections
of the network.

"It's a simple way to support software distribution, configuration management, and
print 'spooling'," he said.

Bill Claybrook, the Aberdeen Group's research director for Linux and open source
software, said that while Caldera's Linux management solution is not a new idea, it
could soon prove useful. "Ideally, with this product, systems managers can monitor the
system, including software as well as hardware, so you can see if something is not
working properly," he said.

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