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Linux management tools grow up

Which tools are enterprises using to manage their Linux systems?

Network/Systems Management Alert Network World
March 08, 2006 12:50 PM ET
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Industry analysis by Beth Schultz, plus the latest news headlines.

You may have seen an EMA research report issued in late February entitled "Get the Truth on Linux Management" (if not, you can download it for free) in which we examined the effect of sophisticated tools on Linux management. There were many interesting findings, which you can read in the report, but the bottom line was that using sophisticated management tools made Linux management faster and more efficient.

So what tools are enterprises actually using? Not surprisingly, the most common tools came from the distro vendors, tools such as Novell SuSE's YaST (Yet another Setup Tool), YOU (YaST Online Update), and Yellowdog Updater Modified (YUM); Red Hat's RHN (Red Hat Network) and RPM (Red Hat Package Manager); and Debian's APT (Advanced Packaging Tool). All of these tools provide varying sophistication for monitoring, patch management, configuration management, recovery and provisioning. Smaller sites were especially dependent on these tools, and often found no need for anything more sophisticated.

A number of sites chose specialized tools from niche vendors (both open source and proprietary). These included Nagios or Groundwork Monitor for monitoring; Velocity Software's Esalps (for z/VM and Linux on z/Series) for performance management; Symantec/Veritas for backup; and Levanta Intrepid M or Opsware Server Automation System for provisioning and patch management. This best-of-breed approach allowed these companies to focus on their most important issues, and they often filled in the less critical gaps with their own scripts and in-house tools.

Several very large enterprises used tools from major framework vendors, such as IBM's Tivoli, HP's OpenView, and CA's Unicenter. These tools make it substantially easier to manage very large heterogeneous environments, without a dramatic expansion of skills, by allowing enterprises to manage Linux with the same skills and methodologies as Windows, Solaris, AIX, z/OS, and others.

Probably most surprising was that some sites were using Microsoft tools to manage Linux. Yes, you read that correctly - Microsoft tools can make Linux management easier. To its credit, Microsoft has made this easier through partnerships and programs like its Dynamic Systems Initiative - a commitment from Microsoft and its partners to deliver self-managing dynamic systems. Tools like Quest's Vintela suite and Centeris' Likewise can snap into native Microsoft management systems like System Management Server, Microsoft Operations Manager and the Microsoft Management Console, extending the familiar and functional Microsoft tools into other environments, including Linux. This allows enterprises to leverage their investment in native Windows tools to make them a very effective management platform for diverse networks.

The integration of Linux management into existing management tools is compelling because, despite the inroads that Linux is making, most enterprises will continue to have many non-Linux servers. As our research reported, no single operating system is the best or only choice for every implementation, application, or enterprise. Inevitably, there will continue to be mix of Linux, Windows, Unix, mainframe and even Mac. There will always be a place for highly functional best-of-breed solutions. However, being able to deploy a new operating environment, while re-using your existing management tools, will most likely reduce the cost of any new implementation.

Schultz is a longtime IT journalist. You can email her or find her here.

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