[rescue] off topic - red hat linux book

Lionel Peterson lionel4287 at gmail.com
Sun Oct 25 10:44:39 CDT 2009

On Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 1:16 PM, Patrick Finnegan
<pat at computer-refuge.org> wrote:
> On Wednesday 21 October 2009, Lionel Peterson wrote:
>> The issue boils down (for me) to the reality that you can't manage
>> 1,500 desktops as easily under Linux, since the tools either don't
>> exist or cost more than comprable MS/apple tools (depending on
> ?!?
>> distribution choosen). As a educational facility, we pay under $40/
>> desktop per year for OS (WinXP, Vista, or Win7) and Office Enterprise
>> 2007. Server licenses are equally affordable.
>> Is there a comprable management suite for Linux that is closer to
>>  Free than $40/desktop? The Ubuntu management package is around $400/
>>  machine, but designed for servers, not really desktops...
> GNU cfengine, Reductive Lab's Puppet, etc.  They're $0.
> What's the difference between a Linux server and desktop as far as
> management goes?
> At work we currently maintain a bit over 2000 machines using cfengine
> 2.2.  Purdue's Engineering Computer Network maintains at least hundreds
> of machines using in-house software called IGOR, which they have used to
> maintain configurations on Windows, Linux, HP/UX, Solaris, and AIX (and
> possibly more).
> I don't understand how Windows can be easier or cheaper to maintain huge
> numbers of machines than Linux is.

At $WORK (public K-12 school district) we manage about 1,500
educational and administrative workstations with 8 people (Director,
DBA, Win Admin, Mac Admin, 3 desktop technicians (two covering two
elemenatry buildings, one tech for the high school and one tech (me!)
for the middle school). We are 1/2 Win (6-12), 1/2 Mac (K-5) and have
4,000 users of, to put it lightly, varying levels of
sophistication/abilities w/r/t computers. We also have responsibility
to support an incomprehensible collection of software, a lot of it
mainstream applications, but a significant number of specialized
applications for special ed users.

We have NO programming resources in-district, so developing in-house
tools like IGOR is not an option. CFEngine and Puppet are frameworks,
not turn-key solutions. If we have to add a headcount to
support/implement a "free tool" it is too expensive.

We have NO "spare cycles" to learn/integrate an opensource tool and
"make it work" in our environment (we don't have any interns or
Graduate Assistants to pad the staff), and we have to defend to the
community every expenditure - and adding headcount isn't happening
(they'd cut if they could).

Ignoring the fact that the applications we need/use are not available
under Linux, with Windows we have a simple point-click environment
that can be managed using Group Policy and MS System Center. We are
able to manage minute details on the desktop "experience", and believe
me, in our environment the order of apps on the start menu is
important (I can't defend this, I simply report it as fact).

I believe we spend a certain amount of time "battling" against the
Win/Mac environments to make them work properly (as we define it), but
on the whole, I believe we save more than we waste. Can I prove it -
no, but I also don't know of any public school districts of even half
the size of our own that have converted to Linux - private schools,
foreign school districts, and others don't count - they have different
dynamics than a public school district in the US does.

Side note: In our area (central New Jersey) exactly ONE school
district tried to convert a small number of users to Linux - the users
hated it (unfamilar, why were they being given "second-class tools"
when others kept Win/Mac, familiar programs were gone, etc.) and the
Win/Mac admins couldn't learn the new platform "in their copius spare
time" while working their full-time positions. While a few in the
community applauded the effort, most were against it and it died a
quick death.


Lionel Peterson
lionel4287 at gmail.com

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