A little delayed post here due to traveling to Austrialia for work, but at UDS-Boston, the Ubuntu Developers Summit, I spent a lot of time with the Ubuntu Server Team. One of things we discussed was the different Lifecyle Management Tools that are open source. I highlighted one in an earlier post, Net Director and then the Ubuntu guys spoke about a project they have called Landscape and I wanted to drop a couple of notes in regards to the presentation they made. (The more I write, the more I realize it is like comparing apples to oranges)
Landscape is a tool created by Canonical to help manage Ubuntu devices in a Small Business. Landscape helps a system admin monitor and admin his/her Ubuntu systems by installing an agent, which is open sourced in case that matters, and that agent then “phones home” reporting information such as package status, what is stored in HAL, and user management information. Landscape reports this information back to a central server managed by Canonical which one can access via a web page to get information about their systems.
Landscape has 4 areas of focus: Package Management, Monitoring, User Management, and Hardware Inventory. I would like to focus on each area and then how Altiris competes with them. Currently Altiris does not support Ubuntu at all, something I would love to see change.
By using Landscape, one can track the different packages and the relationships of those packages. This also allows for a central apt repository that you can download and install the packages from. This is allows one to manage which packages are on the central apt server and then deploy them from the central apt server limiting the bandwidth out to the Internet. When one goes to install software from Altiris, they do it through a software delivery job and the use of package servers thus controlling bandwidth. However you have to download the packages first from a source (such as an apt repository) and then distribute. If some how Altiris could work with an apt-mirror or something similar it would be awesome.
The Hardware Inventory focus of Landscape will grab anything that is reported by HAL. Altiris will inventory the same information. However where Altiris really shines is the reporting more on that later.
The monitoring section of Landscape is just monitoring services that are available. Basic monitoring Altiris can do as well.
User Management is a poor man’s LDAP in Landscape and currently does not integrate with any real directory service. I can read the users that I have on each machine but not control how they are setup.
The real focus or wish I have from the little I have seen Landscape is the lack of real reporting. Altiris dumps all of its data into a SQL database (Microsoft SQL), but at least it is into a database I can then run reports off of. This lack in Landscape is a real weakness.
Say I want to know how many computers have 2 Gigs of RAM in it? I can pull this information easily out of Altiris, but can’t do this in Landscape. From Landscape, I can look at each computer, but I can’t create reports of all of my computers. I hope this comes in future updates to Landscape… Another part of this reporting that Altiris wins in is through the use of collections and policies based on these collections.
From what I’ve seen in Landscape it looks very promising to help someone in an SMB manage their Ubuntu machines, but really how does it scale for the Enterprise? Seems like there is a lot of work to be done to get it more enterprise ready.