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OpenCountry To Update Cross-Distribution Linux Management

All-In-One Management

  • September 30, 2004
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

If you�re a Linux administrator, most of the tools available to you are either too limited in scope or overly big, complex, and expensive, according to OpenCountry CEO Michael Grove.

Within the next few weeks, OpenCountry, now a partner of Progeny�s, will be rolling out the next edition of OC-Manager, a tool suite intended to overcome these problems by offering wide but simplified management capabilities while operating across all distributions.

OC-Manager already provides Linux capabilities in six different areas: systems and OS provisioning; software and patch mangement; hardware and software asset management; back-up and recovery; remote systems administration; and remote desktop takeover, said OpenCountry officials, during an interview with LinuxPlanet.

In contrast, many other tools out there today are merely �point solutions,� contended Laurent Gharda, OpenCountry�s COO, who cited Red Carpet and Ventura�s backup-and-restore product as a couple of examples.

Lots of other tools are limited to working only on certain Linux distributions, Grove observed. Many Linux customers, however, run multiple distributions, he said, pointing to one customer--a chain of retail stores--that is running an assortment of different distributions in 23 different locations to support a customer information application.

How can OC-Manager support every distribution of Linux? Open Country really knows each distribution inside and out, according to Gharda. �SUSE, for example, is very different from most other distributions. We�ve built an API (application programming interface) based on our knowledge,� he said.

Most Linux packages can run with OC-Manager straight out of the box, according to Grove. Some, though, need to be converted into an OC-Manager packaging format through the use of a process dubbed �normalization.�

Through a deal with Progeny unveiled at this year�s LinuxWorld San Francisco, OpenCountry is also providing administration for legacy editions of Red Hat Linux.

�We�re deeply committed to open source. That�s why we chose �OpenCountry� as our name,� Grove maintained.

With Progeny supplying patch management and OpenCounty stepping in with administrative tools, the two companies are trying to fill the void that emerged when Red Hat withdrew its support for its oldest versions.

�A lot of people might not know this, but around 60 percent of all Linux installations consist of legacy Red Hat software,� said Grove.

Another important part of Progeny�s business is around �helping customers to create quasi-custom solutions,� he noted.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from point solution alternatives are large, multiplatform packages such as IBM Tivoli, HP OpenView, and Novell ZenWorks.

�We�re not putting these products down,� said Grove. However, software like Tivoli or OpenView is required mostly for enterprise data center applications -- such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) -- operating in mixed OS installations, he said.

Enterprise tools are sometimes deeper in functionality, the CEO acknowledged. Yet Linux installations running in branch, departmental, remote, and other distributed environments don�t tend to need quite as many management capabilities, he said.

Large enterprise management packages are costly not just in terms of purchase price, or in terms of the big hardware often used for running them, according to Grove.

He pointed to an IDC study attributing an average of 62.2 percent of five-year TCO (total cost of ownership) to staffing, in comparison to 23.2 percent for downtime; 5.4 percent for training; 4.7 percent for software; and 4.5 percent for hardware. The specific numbers are similar across all OS, whether it's Linux or Microsoft Windows, he said.

�The staff needed for administering (high-end crossplatform management) systems can be expensive. Often, these are $80,000 per year people,� Grove added.

To help keep down staffing costs, OC-Manager provides a graphical user interface (GUI) intended to be easy to use even for novice administrators. Typical training time is less than an hour, according to the execs.

OC-Manager is also highly scalable, supporting anywhere from five to 5000 Linux servers, blades, desktops or appliances, Gharda said.

System components include OC-Host; a software repository and administrative dashboard; OC-Agent, a client-side intelligent agent meant to manage pushed and pulled software without giving root access to local users; OC-Admin, a Web-based remote administration interface; and OC-Provisioning, for distributing system and application software.

OpenCountry isn�t saying much yet about the next edition of OC-Manager, to be rolled out within the next few weeks. But Gharda did offer a hint about one upcoming new feature.

�It will involve provisioning new systems at very high volume, on an on demand basis,� the COO told LinuxPlanet.

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