Ximian takes Linux management behind firewall

Linux software maker Ximian Inc. on Monday will release a new version of its Red Carpet software management tool, which enterprise customers can use to automatically deploy updates and security patches for Linux desktop and server software.

Called Red Carpet Enterprise, the product is the latest generation of Ximian's software for delivering updates and fixes to multiple servers and workstations. Red Carpet is currently available as a Web-based service for corporate customers, called Red Carpet Corporate Connect, and one for individual Linux users, called Red Carpet Express. Both allow users to download patches and version upgrades from servers hosted by the Boston-based company.

With the enterprise version of Red Carpet, system administrators will be able to install the software management tool on their own servers, said Jon Perr, vice president of marketing for Ximian. Additionally, with Red Carpet Enterprise users can manage the process using a command line interface in addition to the Web-based console available for existing versions of the tool.

Also new to the product, customers will be able to manage version and security updates for custom Linux software developed by individual users, in addition to generally-available software products already managed with the tool. Those include versions of the Linux operating system from Red Hat Inc., SuSE Linux AG, MandrakeSoft SA, and the open-source project Debian.

All versions of Red Carpet also include "channels" where users can get updates to third-party Linux software, such as Opera Software ASA's Web browser, Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StarOffice desktop suite and Ximian's Evolution e-mail and calendaring software.

Amerada Hess Corp., an oil and gas company in Houston, uses Red Carpet Corporate Connect to manage software updates for 300 Red Hat Linux servers deployed in one of its U.S. divisions. Jeff Davis, senior systems programmer with Amerada Hess, said he has been testing Ximian's new server-based product and plans to roll it out in place of the current service next year.

"Basically, it works just like Corporate Connect. The only difference is that since the box is inside the firewall it's under (my) control," he said.

With control over the server, Davis said he can deploy hundreds of fixes at one time, whereas the existing version requires him to schedule updates one at a time.

Similar tools are available from other companies. For example, Red Hat offers a tool called Red Hat Network that allows its users to keep current with security patches and updates. However, few allow users to manage updates for products from multiple vendors through a single interface.

Red Carpet Enterprises will cost US$2,500 for the server software component and $200 for each server or workstation that is maintained with the software tool. Volume pricing will also be available, the company said.

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