Management features Along with stability guarantees such as predictable end-of-life dates, Java Desktop System 2 and Red Hat Desktop differentiate themselves from the bulk of the desktop Linux field by their management features.For example, we were impressed with Java Desktop System Configuration Manager. It lets administrators define and apply configuration policies for the GNOME desktop environment, Mozilla Web browser, StarOffice productivity suite and Evolution groupware client. Configuration Manager works with an LDAP server that stores user, group and configuration policy data. Configuration Manager has a Web-based interface that administrators can use to define and apply policies to managed systems. Administrators can also use the tool to enact and enforce configuration policies on user machines. Using Configuration Managers Web interface, we could access most configuration options for the applications the tool supports and perform tasks such as setting Web proxies for Mozilla, disabling macros or defaulting to Microsoft Office formats in StarOffice. We could also block access to any application on the machine. With Red Hat Desktop, its possible to handle some of these configuration tasks through a Red Hat Network module that lets administrators edit configuration files and push them to systems theyre managing. These configuration features require provisioning entitlements for each system to be managed. These entitlements cost $96 more per year per system, which substantially raises the cost of Red Hat Desktop. In terms of cost and functionality, Red Hat Networks provisioning entitlements fit much better with Red Hats server products than with the desktop product. We hope to see Red Hat build more desktop-focused tools into Red Hat Network in the future. Red Hats tools fare much better with software deployment and system inventory tasks. The Web interface for the Red Hat Network service is well-done, and it provides administrators with a range of management tools. From the Red Hat Network control panel, we could review and arrange for e-mail notification of bulletins on important updates, apply these updates to systems and configure systems to update themselves. For Red Hat Desktop clients, we could also manage systems in groups and assign permissions for groups. The Red Hat Network service can be hosted by Red Hat or bolstered by a proxy server at an organizations site. Red Hat Network also can be self-hosted, which requires a satellite server from Red Hat. With a self-hosted Red Hat Network setup and the provisioning entitlement, administrators can also deploy new systems from a network boot. Also capable of deploying new systems this way is Sun Control Station 2.1, which ships with Java Desktop System 2. Sun Control Station handles software installation and system inventory tasks for Java Desktop System-based devices and can manage servers running Red Hat Linux 7.3 and 8.0 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1, as well as Solaris 8 and 9. Java Desktop System 2 also includes a remote-takeover feature that lets support staff remotely control a user machine to troubleshoot problems. Next page: User experience.
Red Hats management tools, in the form of the companys Red Hat Network service, have had a few years to mature while serving as the management interface for Red Hats server products. Red Hat Network demonstrates this maturity with a slicker look and better integration than the tools for Java Desktop System 2 have. However, Red Hats tools show their server-centric heritage with a lack of desktop-specific management options that Suns tools boast.