Aberdeen InSight: Linux-Based Software Management

What are the main challenges of managing Linux platforms and which features should users consider when selecting Linux software management solutions? An Aberdeen Group analyst weighs in.
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In the past year, the lack of Linux software management solutions has frequently been cited as one of the top reasons users are cautious about deploying Linux. Today, several emerging Linux suppliers as well as large systems management companies are providing Linux-based software management solutions.

This InSight describes the challenges of managing Linux platforms as well as the features users should consider when selecting Linux-based software management solutions. It also offers an overview of two groups of companies now providing such solutions.

Linux-Based Software Management: It Really Is Different!

Linux is open source, and almost all of the software that constitutes Linux distributions is open source. As an example, a Red Hat Linux distribution for servers contains hundreds of software packages. In reality, a Linux distribution, as well as other open source creations, is a combination of efforts from many people. Because many of the software packages are maintained separately and are on different release schedules, knowledge of the dependencies and interactions between the packages is essential.

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Coordinating software development schedules is often paramount. For example, contrast open source development with the way proprietary software is developed by Microsoft, where schedules are monitored and coordinated constantly. But the value of the open source software development process is indisputable; the two primary reasons that users adopt Linux are that it is reliable and stable.

Here's the Difference

Other Recent CIO Digests
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Who's Afraid of Linux?

Linux users have almost unlimited access to thousands of open source packages on public servers and elsewhere. The benefits of the open source development model include the promise of rapid software enhancements, continuous improvements, and constant flow of patches and security fixes. Reaping the benefits of the open source development model, however, places certain software management requirements on Linux management solutions.

The challenges of managing Linux software largely result from having hundreds of common components and libraries shared across applications. Thus, the process of updating one application can lead to dependency conflicts that may "break" another application. Linux software management solutions have solved this problem because they automatically detect dependencies and conflicts, making the install-and-remove package operations simple and safe, one-step tasks.

Two Groups of Suppliers

There are at least two groups of Linux software management solution providers. The first group - emerging Linux companies - consists of suppliers including Aduva (Aduva Director); BladeLogic (Configuration Manager); Caldera (Volution Online, Volution Manager); Red Hat (Red Hat Network); RLX (Control Tower); Sun Cobalt (Control Station); Turbolinux (PowerCockpit); and Ximian (Red Carpet) that provide Linux software management solutions. Software management includes delivering and installing patches, installing new software, removing software, resolving package dependencies, maintaining dependency trees, etc.

The second group - heterogeneous computing environment network and systems management solution providers - includes larger companies like BMC, Computer Associates (CA), Hewlett-Packard (HP), and Tivioli. All of these companies have portfolios of Linux management solutions. CA has a portfolio of more than 50 stand-alone management solutions for Linux.

The first group, along with CA, provides solutions that have the capability to install and remove software packages on Linux-based desktops and servers. That means their solutions support RPM (short for RPM Package Manager) software packaging. All of the large suppliers have developed or are developing relationships with Aduva, Caldera, etc. - in some cases because their software does not currently install RPM packages. For example, HP's Servicecontrol Manager does not install RPM packages, but it can launch Aduva's Director software to perform RPM software package installs on HP and non-HP Linux platforms.


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