Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Automic Blog, Elizabeth White, Derek Weeks, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Managing an Open Source Application Stack with Aduva OnStage

A user case study

One of the most serious problems facing larger organizations considering using Linux and Open Source application stacks is managing the software environment.

The basic Linux system has adequate tools to manage a single machine, or even a small group of machines, but once the population of these machines reaches into the tens and hundreds and spreads across multiple application areas and multiple locations the management task becomes harder.

When the complete system configuration includes items not directly supported by the Linux distribution, the tools provided with the system are often not enough.

Management tasks that become non-trivial for larger installations typically are:

  • Configuration management: In larger deployments it's usual to have multiple defined configurations, each specific to a given task. Each configuration will typically have loaded only those components required for the task for which the configuration is defined, and configuration parameters in various files defined to tune the system to its specific class of task.
  • Application deployment: New application deployment, or an upgrade of an existing application, in itself not typically a difficult task, can have implications for other parts of the system if any changes to the configuration are required due to dependency requirements of the new/upgraded application. Usually not particularly difficult to manage when the application is one directly supported by the Linux distribution vendor, which will ensure that dependencies are met without disrupting the rest of the system, but potentially much more complex when it's not directly supported.
  • Loading the software on to multiple (potentially hundreds) of machines, often having to take into account factors such as performing the task when no user is present, stopping and starting system services, and possibly needing to reboot the system if any OS components are modified.
In this article, we take a look at how one large user of Linux systems handles these problems with Aduva OnStage.

Jefferson County in Colorado makes heavy use of Linux where F/OSS makes good sense. With around 60 servers to manage, the systems administrator Jeff Falgout and the team of systems engineers that he leads need all the help they can get in automating and managing configurations used for multiple purposes.

The servers run mainly Red Hat Linux 8, with a small number of SuSE servers thrown into the mix, but are slowly transitioning to Red Hat ES and AS. The application stack includes Novell e-Directory and some test installations of Fedora Directory Server (the ex-Netscape/AOL directory server closely related to Sun's JES directory server). Other services include e-mail with sendmail and SpamAssassin in conjunction with mail-scanner providing spam and virus filtering. These provide front-end filtering and routing for Novell GroupWise. Apache Web servers are used in conjunction with Tomcat application servers. Proxying/caching of user Web access is covered by Squid with appropriate anti-virus components installed. Add in a few in-house developed applications and the result is a very capable software stack, but one that if not managed correctly could give any systems administrator, as well as the IT manager, sleepless nights.

Using Aduva OnStage to manage these configurations takes a lot of the hard work out of the process and lets Jeff sleep comfortably at night.

Jeff has few worries about those components supported in the base distribution of any of the systems. With the focus that Aduva puts on the base Linux distributions, the Aduva KnowlegeBase, which OnStage depends on to ensure that all dependency requirements are met correctly, faithfully tracks the changes that distributions make as new revisions of various components are released and, especially importantly, as security issues arise. The Aduva KnowlegeBase contains all the required information to keep distributions up-to-date, avoiding known security issues or warning where avoidance might not be possible with currently available packages, while maintaining correct dependencies throughout the system.

The tracking between the Aduva KnowlegeBase and the Linux distributors' own dependency/update systems is so good that Jeff feels comfortable using them interchangeably, but in practice uses OnStage as a replacement for Linux distributors tools, such as Red Hat's to maintain a complete and accurate record of the current state of every machine. On systems that have the Red Hat applet that warns that there are system updates available from Red Hat, the applet will occasionally show red, indicating pending updates, but after the next run of OnStage, those same applets will once again show green, illustrating the close tracking between OnStage and the Linux distribution's own systems.

For stack components not directly handled in distribution base systems, Jefferson County maintains its own private extension to the KnowlegeBase, containing information on dependency requirements of those components and a repository of the RPMs containing them. All the in-house applications are managed this way, as is Tomcat, which is not part of the Red Hat base system and so not automatically included in the Aduva KnowlegeBase for Red Hat.

OnStage handles the configuration management and automatic updates of components in that configuration as they become available. Not only are system and application binaries managed, so are the various associated configuration files. OnStage can be used to build a system "from bare metal" based on any one of these configurations, or for the transformation of a system in one configuration to another. Changes are recorded and, if required, can be backed out very simply. Configurable rules can be used to schedule updates to specific machine groups and can take account of requirements such as waiting until there's no user and doing a system reboot at the end.

The ability to clone a configuration on a machine is something that Jeff uses when major updates have to be tested. The new configuration can be tested and tuned, then that identical configuration is applied to specific groups of machines once testing is complete. OnStage uses the KnowlegeBase, both the central Aduva copy and Jefferson County's own, to determine exactly which packages to remove and which to install to ensure that existing systems end up being identical to the staging/test system(s).

When asked if he trusted OnStage enough to consider skipping the verification staging build of significant changes before deployment, Jeff responded like any systems administrator faced with applying untested patches to many production system would, saying, "No, I have faith in the system, but not that much!" Then after reflection, he added, "Actually, we do allow the system updates to go straight through without testing and have never has any issues, so I guess I do trust it after all."

More Stories By Philip Peake

Philip Peake is a professional services consultant, and has worked for a variety of companies including Netscape, AOL, Sun Microsystems and OSDL.
With over 25 years experience of UNIX based systems in Internet and
Intranet enterprise environments, using Linux has been a natural evolution.
Philip has a Batchelor of Science degree in computer science from
the University of Keele in the United Kingdom.

Comments (3) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Fraser Campbell 01/13/06 01:09:18 PM EST

Hi Philip,

I am in a position where we have 100s of SuSE servers and that number is expected to grow by leaps and bounds as virtualization begins to take hold.

I agree that higher level management tools are critical to managing this infrastructure.

I am curious as to what tools you may have used yourself, have you for example considered cfengine. My bias is weighted heavily towards open source tools despite the fact that we are using SLES servers.

news desk 12/27/05 11:43:26 PM EST

One of the most serious problems facing larger organizations considering using Linux and Open Source application stacks is managing the software environment. The basic Linux system has adequate tools to manage a single machine, or even a small group of machines, but once the population of these machines reaches into the tens and hundreds and spreads across multiple application areas and multiple locations the management task becomes harder.

news desk 12/27/05 11:32:19 PM EST

One of the most serious problems facing larger organizations considering using Linux and Open Source application stacks is managing the software environment. The basic Linux system has adequate tools to manage a single machine, or even a small group of machines, but once the population of these machines reaches into the tens and hundreds and spreads across multiple application areas and multiple locations the management task becomes harder.

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Akvelon will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Akvelon is a business and technology consulting firm that specializes in applying cutting-edge technology to problems in fields as diverse as mobile technology, sports technology, finance, and healthcare.
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, will introduce two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera offers a radically new approach to data management, where innovative software makes data infrastructure invisible, elastic and able to perform at the highest level. It eliminates hardware lock-in and gives IT organizations the choice to source x86 server nodes, with business model option...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, I provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading the...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Elastifile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Elastifile Cloud File System (ECFS) is software-defined data infrastructure designed for seamless and efficient management of dynamic workloads across heterogeneous environments. Elastifile provides the architecture needed to optimize your hybrid cloud environment, by facilitating efficient...
"We provide IoT solutions. We provide the most compatible solutions for many applications. Our solutions are industry agnostic and also protocol agnostic," explained Richard Han, Head of Sales and Marketing and Engineering at Systena America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
SYS-CON Events announced today that GrapeUp, the leading provider of rapid product development at the speed of business, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market acr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Golden Gate University will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Since 1901, non-profit Golden Gate University (GGU) has been helping adults achieve their professional goals by providing high quality, practice-based undergraduate and graduate educational programs in law, taxation, business and related professions. Many of its courses are taug...
Recently, IoT seems emerging as a solution vehicle for data analytics on real-world scenarios from setting a room temperature setting to predicting a component failure of an aircraft. Compared with developing an application or deploying a cloud service, is an IoT solution unique? If so, how? How does a typical IoT solution architecture consist? And what are the essential components and how are they relevant to each other? How does the security play out? What are the best practices in formulating...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arvind Radhakrishnen discussed how IoT offers new business models in banking and financial services organizations with the capability to revolutionize products, payments, channels, business processes and asset management built on strong architectural foundation. The following topics were covered: How IoT stands to impact various business parameters including customer experience, cost and risk management within BFS organizations.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
DX World EXPO, LLC., a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, discussed the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insights from the vast t...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
From 2013, NTT Communications has been providing cPaaS service, SkyWay. Its customer’s expectations for leveraging WebRTC technology are not only typical real-time communication use cases such as Web conference, remote education, but also IoT use cases such as remote camera monitoring, smart-glass, and robotic. Because of this, NTT Communications has numerous IoT business use-cases that its customers are developing on top of PaaS. WebRTC will lead IoT businesses to be more innovative and address...