Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Linux Authors: Lori MacVittie, Carmen Gonzalez, Ian Khan, VictorOps Blog, Jason Bloomberg

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: 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
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
HP and Aruba Networks on Monday announced a definitive agreement for HP to acquire Aruba, a provider of next-generation network access solutions for the mobile enterprise, for $24.67 per share in cash. The equity value of the transaction is approximately $3.0 billion, and net of cash and debt approximately $2.7 billion. Both companies' boards of directors have approved the deal. "Enterprises are facing a mobile-first world and are looking for solutions that help them transition legacy investments to the new style of IT," said Meg Whitman, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of HP...
PubNub on Monday has announced that it is partnering with IBM to bring its sophisticated real-time data streaming and messaging capabilities to Bluemix, IBM’s cloud development platform. “Today’s app and connected devices require an always-on connection, but building a secure, scalable solution from the ground up is time consuming, resource intensive, and error-prone,” said Todd Greene, CEO of PubNub. “PubNub enables web, mobile and IoT developers building apps on IBM Bluemix to quickly add scalable realtime functionality with minimal effort and cost.”
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
With several hundred implementations of IoT-enabled solutions in the past 12 months alone, this session will focus on experience over the art of the possible. Many can only imagine the most advanced telematics platform ever deployed, supporting millions of customers, producing tens of thousands events or GBs per trip, and hundreds of TBs per month. With the ability to support a billion sensor events per second, over 30PB of warm data for analytics, and hundreds of PBs for an data analytics archive, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Kaskade, Vice President and General Manager, Big Data & Ana...
In the consumer IoT, everything is new, and the IT world of bits and bytes holds sway. But industrial and commercial realms encompass operational technology (OT) that has been around for 25 or 50 years. This grittier, pre-IP, more hands-on world has much to gain from Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and principles. But adding sensors and wireless connectivity won’t work in environments that demand unwavering reliability and performance. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ron Sege, CEO of Echelon, will discuss how as enterprise IT embraces other IoT-related technology trends, enterprises with i...
When it comes to the Internet of Things, hooking up will get you only so far. If you want customers to commit, you need to go beyond simply connecting products. You need to use the devices themselves to transform how you engage with every customer and how you manage the entire product lifecycle. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, will show how “product relationship management” can help you leverage your connected devices and the data they generate about customer usage and product performance to deliver extremely compelling and reliabl...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is causing data centers to become radically decentralized and atomized within a new paradigm known as “fog computing.” To support IoT applications, such as connected cars and smart grids, data centers' core functions will be decentralized out to the network's edges and endpoints (aka “fogs”). As this trend takes hold, Big Data analytics platforms will focus on high-volume log analysis (aka “logs”) and rely heavily on cognitive-computing algorithms (aka “cogs”) to make sense of it all.
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, had reached 30,000 page views on his home page - http://RobertoMedrano.SYS-CON.com/ - on the SYS-CON family of online magazines, which includes Cloud Computing Journal, Internet of Things Journal, Big Data Journal, and SOA World Magazine. He is a recognized executive in the information technology fields of SOA, internet security, governance, and compliance. He has extensive experience with both start-ups and large companies, having been involved at the beginning of four IT industries: EDA, Open Systems, Computer Security and now SOA.
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
Operational Hadoop and the Lambda Architecture for Streaming Data Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, representing a model of how to analyze rea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
SYS-CON Events announced today that GENBAND, a leading developer of real time communications software solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's WebRTC Summit, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The GENBAND team will be on hand to demonstrate their newest product, Kandy. Kandy is a communications Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that enables companies to seamlessly integrate more human communications into their Web and mobile applications - creating more engaging experiences for their customers and boosting collaboration and productiv...