Canonical Ships Landscape System Management Tool for Ubuntu
Published: March 11, 2008
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
There seem to be as many ways to manage physical and virtual servers these days as there are brands of boxes, operating systems, and virtual machine hypervisors. And now, there is one more. Last week, Canonical, the commercial entity behind the Ubuntu variant of Debian Linux, announced a new system management tool for Ubuntu called Landscape.
"We are committed to making Ubuntu the right choice for business," explained Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and the Ubuntu Linux project, in a statement announcing Landscape. "I am delighted that the feedback from the beta program indicates that Landscape meets that commitment. We challenged the development team to build a tool that was simple to use but powerful for support customers and they delivered. I expect Landscape to drive many more large-scale Ubuntu deployments."
At this point, Landscape is used strictly to manage servers and desktops that have Ubuntu deployed on them. You set it up on an Ubuntu machine that acts as a management console for a group of machines, and then you use their Web-based Landscape interface to reach out over the network and poll Ubuntu machines to inventory the software packages on those boxes. From that interface, administrators can group machines to help make the organization of Ubuntu machines on the network more intelligible--perhaps grouping PCs in the call center with all the same software together, and then all Web servers with exactly the same LAMP stack together. Having grouped machines together, or left them as standalone Ubuntu instances because that is warranted, admins can apply patches or updates to Ubuntu machines as a group, they can install or delete software packages on machines on a group basis or apply security updates to them, too. Companies can also use Landscape to manage their own internal Ubuntu application software repository and deploy it on the machines attached to the network, and the software also is smart enough to allow the scheduling of updates for machines that are currently off the network--such as servers under hardware maintenance or a PC that is temporarily offline.
In addition to management, Landscape also has monitoring features. It can poll the network and provide a report on all of the processes running on all of the machines in the network, and can be used to create an inventory database describing all the various server and PC platforms running Ubuntu out on the network. Canonical is also pitching Landscape as a means to help improve the way that it supports companies who pay for support services for Ubuntu on their PCs and servers and has integrated Landscape into the Canonical trouble ticketing system and support portal. The Canonical team can used Landscape running on your network to poll machines for information that helps them more quickly resolve tech support issues.
Landscape is available now to Ubuntu shops under a 60-day free trial, which you can register for at http://forms.canonical.com/dashboard/survey/response.jsp. You don't have to have your Ubuntu instances under tech support to make use of the Landscape tool, but you will have to pay $150 per node per year (including volume discounts for large numbers of machines) to get commercial support for Landscape. As far as I can tell, the code behind Landscape is not going to be made available as an open source tool, which is sure to tick off more than a few Ubuntu community members.
While it is possible that Canonical might reach out with Landscape to manage other Linuxes, particularly other Debian variants and certainly Red Hat and Novell variants, the company has not said that this is in the plan. If the tool is good enough and Canonical thinks it can make a buck--or rather, a buck, a pound, or a euro--by being more inclusive, it will do it.
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