What manageability means and How to get there

I’m a little frustrated that when I talk about manageability, people get confused. Manageability makes it simple for system administrators to deploy desktops and for users to share data.

This isn’t just about setting up servers. Ubuntu, based on Debian, is great as a server OS.

This isn’t just about automating tasks. Landscape or puppet can help out here, but that only goes so far. They’ll take care of monitoring, package updates, and automating tasks.

A sysadmin of an office or an IT group for a larger organisation still needs some central management interface for all his users. He needs to make it easy for people to share data across a network and have unified, secure credentials for login, email, and web access. If a user’s login account isn’t the same as their email account — if they can’t use the same address book in their desktop mail client as they do in webmail — then you have a management problem.

There is a known solution to this problem. Kerberize your apps and make them speak LDAP. Many applications already have this capability. The manageability problem that Ubuntu has is not really a lack of capability, it is one of integration. System and Network administrators tend to understand the problem better than developers of desktop or server software, but most of them already have their hands full managing their own organisation and don’t have time or, often, the capability to start integrating all the software and configuration into something that anyone can deploy easily.

And so, Microsoft continues to win on the desktop. Not because an individual PC running Windows is easier for most people to use, but because its easier to set up Active Directory to work with Outlook and Exchange than it is to roll your own directory service with the tools available out of the box on Ubuntu. Bug #1 will never be solved until directory services and authentication are integrated into every aspect of Ubuntu.

Now, as frustrated as I am that most people don’t seem to understand the problem when I talk about it, I am pleased to see that others are aware of the problem, and have actually put some effort into planning out an approach to solving it.

The best example of this would be the EDUbuntu people. Their EDUbuntu User Managment blueprint is a great outline of exactly what needs to take place to solve this managability problem.

But they created this blueprint over four years ago and almost nothing has happened on it.

Launchpad is littered with similar blueprints (below) that show other people’s aborted efforts to solve part or all of the problem. Unfortunatly, no one group has really tried to spear-head this and so most of these efforts (at least when I did my survey a few months ago) are dead or dying.

I’d really like to get this problem solved so that setting up an Ubuntu-based directory service would be as easy — easier, even — as setting up Active Directory.

Look over the blueprints below, find a place you can help. Let’s get this moving forward!

One thought on “What manageability means and How to get there”

  1. Ebox

    Ebox is some kind of out-of-the-box solution. But it’s not a real MS AD replacment it’s PDC with LDAP backend, AFAIK. But it works pretty nice. I was able to integrate users with Drupal intranet.

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