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
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
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.
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.
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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
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.
The emerging Linux software management solution suppliers
offer products that provide some standard features,
- Centralized remote management;
- RPM Package Manager support;
- Security patch capability and security alerts;
- Secure Web-based browser management;
- Conflict and dependency checking;
- New package notification;
- Hardware/software inventories for the managed
- Open source agents running on the managed systems.
Other features that the suppliers support in
varying degrees – and features that potential users
should consider when selecting a Linux software management
solution – include:
- Flexibility of software package support;
- Integration capability with enterprise network and
system management frameworks;
- Linux distribution support – i.e., one Linux
distribution or several;
- Potential for adapting to non-Linux systems;
- Degree of customization possible for managing
corporate users and defining software access privileges; and
- Degree of software package certification.
Several of the solutions are not limited to just Linux. For
example, Ximian Red Carpet will be available on
Solaris in 2002; Caldera Volution Manager is now available on
Caldera OpenServer and Caldera Open UNIX, and will
be available on Solaris and Windows. Of the Linux-based
software management solutions, only Red Hat Network is
available for one Linux distribution and operating system –
Red Hat Linux.
A recently released 50-page Aberdeen research report
entitled Software Management Solutions from Linux Suppliers:
A Competitive Analysis covers products, targeted markets,
business strategies, etc., for Aduva Director, Caldera
Volution Online, Caldera Volution Manager, Red Hat Network,
Turbolinux PowerCockpit, and Ximian Red Carpet. In
addition to helping users sort through the multiple offerings
and various partnering strategies now underway, this
report provides a competitive analysis/ranking of the
solutions available today. In addition, it notes the solution
providers that have the best chances for success in the
The nature and use of open source software such as Linux –
access to thousands of open source packages via the
Web – places certain requirements on products for managing
Linux-based systems. As a result, the creators of the
Linux-based solutions have included some important features
not found in proprietary software management solutions.
Most of these features make installing/removing Linux-based
software an easy, one-step process.
Early on, the emerging Linux software solution suppliers
focused on open source software deployment issues for
Linux platforms. Now, however, some of these suppliers are beginning to tackle the problems of deploying proprietary
software on Linux and deploying software on proprietary
operating system platforms such as Solaris and Windows
using the same solutions. This effort increases solution value
because solutions will be able to perform cross-platform
As Linux servers move increasingly into the enterprise and
interoperate with Unix and Windows servers, the need
to integrate Linux management solutions with enterprise
network management and systems management solutions will
increase. This integration is important and necessary because
the emerging suppliers’ solutions do an inadequate
job of handling, if at all, tasks such as hardware monitoring,
resource management, performance management, etc.
And, today, they are not capable of managing heterogeneous
Aberdeen’s research suggests that the suppliers whose
Linux-based software management solutions can easily integrate
with enterprise management solutions are the suppliers
likeliest to have the largest impact in the Linux market.
Bill Claybrook is Aberdeen Group‘s Research Director, Linux and Open Source Software.