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20 February 2008, 11:03

Desktop management of Linux clients

Nico Gulden, Rainer Bessert, Thomas Winkelbauer

A market review by the Linux Solutions Group

If an increased prevalence of Linux desktop systems is to be achieved, workplaces need to be managed efficiently. The LiSoG Desktop Management scenario formulates the requirements for effective desktop management. Requirements focus on user, object and software management.

LiSoG logo With their Desktop-Management von Linux-Clients (Desktop Management of Linux Clients) publication, authors from the ranks of the Linux Solutions Group (LiSoG) intend to give businesses and authorities interested in using Linux an overview of the variety of already existing desktop management programs and help them to find the right setup. Prospective users can match their own requirements with the detailed requirement profiles collated by the authors, preselect solutions with the market overview and then narrow down their choices with the more detailed reviews.

From a total of ten suggested systems, the scenario team checked eight against more detailed requirements in separate one-day reviews. The programs examined in more detail were those of ASDIS Software AG, BMC Software AG, GONICUS, Novell, Network Competence Services (NWC), Red Hat, Univention and Xandros. The market review offers reference installations, system requirements, specific advantages and target groups for each product. The complete study (in German) can be freely downloaded from the internet at (PDF file).

The following products were tested:


ASDIS Enterprise Management was developed for managing heterogeneous IT environments. It can handle system and software life cycle management for various devices and platforms and also supports a change of operating system. German rail operator Deutsche Bahn, for example, uses ASDIS Enterprise Management for managing the software of their ticket vending machines. Individual device configurations are stored in proprietary CMDBs, and the software is managed using a Definitive Software Library (DSL). ASDIS is Serview ITIL-certified. Configurations are rule-based to achieve the most effective degree of automation for lifecycle processes.


BMC Configuration Manager was developed on the basis of Marimba. It focusses on PC life cycle management and also offers to install Red Hat on bare systems. Due to its Java implementation it is platform-independent; BMC comes with Java Virtual Machine. Marimba supports a variety of clients, for example Mac OS X and Pocket PC. The management server (transmitter) works with Windows Server, Linux, and Unix (AIX, HP-UX and Solaris).


GOsa² by GONICUS is one of two free desktop management applications tested and offers clients a wide selection of configurations: from start menu programs and desktop icons to the configuration of the Firefox browser's home page, parameters can be saved in the central management server. Users, user profiles, devices, groups, software configurations and many other things are saved as objects complete with attributes in the LDAP directory. Objects and their attributes are organised in object groups and templates. If a device is to perform an additional task, the administrator can assign the respective template and determine when it is to be installed. This way, the required software or altered configuration can be activated, and the distribution or management server will load and install it on the client when the client is next started.


Novell ZENworks uses mainly software images for operating system deployment but also offers script-based installations via AutoYast for Novell Suse systems and via Red Hat Kickstart for Red Hat systems. A ZENworks system can be reproduced as a software image and distributed to additional machines. For this purpose, ZENworks offers the ZENworks Imaging Service. The software to be installed is grouped in bundles. Bundling focusses on the software to be installed, and the vendor states that dependencies are resolved automatically. Individual applications can be configured centrally in ZENworks. Mozilla-Firefox and Evolution, for example, can be installed using parameters specified in advance. Novell offers integrated assistants for these types of policies. Software for which no such assistant is available can be included by deploying the respective configuration files.

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