What are your options for managing Linux?

* Is managing Linux free?

The noise surrounding Linux continues to grow and Linux is steadily gaining a foothold in the enterprise as a server platform. The open source movement has definitely provided an alternative platform choice for IT consumers, who gravitate to Linux because of its lower licensing cost (free, in some cases), as well as its "openness" and non-proprietary-"ness." The very strengths that attract users to this platform also raise other issues with regard to management.

One of these issues is cost. In a market climate, where IT is being asked to do more with smaller budgets, how prevalent is the issue of cost? Some IT organizations are turning to Linux as an alternative to reduce the licensing costs of software. So taking that thought the next step further, if the Linux platform is looked upon as a bargain or lower cost solution, then, are IT organizations less likely to pay for management tools for this platform?

From my observation, there are disparate views on this. For some IT organizations where there is not much investment going on in IT, the answer is yes, they are less likely to spend on management tools for Linux - or for any other platform for that matter. Many ITers in companies such as these get by using "free" or very inexpensive tools, including some open source tools to get their jobs done. Or alternatively, administrators may use basic, general purpose technologies such as SSH or Telnet to manage their systems on an ad hoc basis.

On the other hand, other companies do invest in management tools for Linux, much the same as they have invested in tools for other platforms. In some cases, they may just extend the enterprise software that they already use to include the management of Linux systems.

Many companies are using Linux in production environments, while others are using it for ancillary, non-critical uses. In addition, Linux has been the operating system of choice for many management appliances. So whether your company has formally committed to bringing Linux into your infrastructure or not, you may already have Linux in-house.

There is an increase in management tools that are designed specifically for Linux. This is in addition to the enterprise tools that have extended their management to Linux platforms. These vendors are primarily selling their products to companies that have sizable investments in the Linux platform - both in dollars, mindshare and effort; but they are also selling their solutions to companies with less of a commitment.

So as vendors come out with new, more sophisticated Linux management solutions, will you buy them? Or will you continue to use low cost, open source tools? Is the sophistication of management of Linux the same as it is for other platforms in your company? Why or why not? And finally, when does management of Linux become a necessity, rather than "something that we have to do but haven't gotten to yet"? And what management tools are you using for your Linux platforms?

I'd like to hear from our Linux-using readers about your views and experiences with the management of Linux. This is an opportunity for Linux users to speak out. So please send your responses to me at mailto:Rasmussen@enterprisemanagement.com with "Linux" in the subject line. And as always, if I hear from enough of you, I will write a follow up article to let you know what our Linux readers are doing and thinking. (No vendor responses will be included, only user responses.)

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Related:

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.