Caldera Volution Good Start for Taming Linux

Caldera Systems Inc.'s new Linux management package, Caldera Volution, is a good first step toward centralized administration of Linux systems

Caldera Systems Inc.s new Linux management package, Caldera Volution, is a good first step toward centralized administration of Linux systems, but eWeek Labs found it to be an immature product that anyone but the Linux faithful may have trouble mastering.

However, for sites that manage numerous Linux systems, the software distribution features in this first version may override its shortcomings.

Although setting up software distribution should have been less involved and Calderas documentation was of little help, Volution can quickly roll out applications to many Linux machines, and we believe this to be its strongest feature. The product supports all major Linux distributions, although it does not support the latest version (7.0) of Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux.

Our biggest disappointment was with Calderas health monitoring feature, which tracks such things as CPU hogs and free disk space. Health monitoring amounted to little more than sending a box full of e-mail alerts and providing MIB (Management Information Base) hooks to SNMP applications from such vendors as Tivoli Systems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. Volution does integrate well with these vendors products.

This is the first full management package for Linux systems that eWeek Labs has tested, and it is one of the logical steps required before the operating system can realize its place in the enterprise. Notably absent from the field are the usual players in the Windows enterprise management space.

Shipping since January at $2,995 for up to 10 nodes and $149 per node after that, Volution will have a hard time breaking out of the server support role and into the desktop PC market, where Windows-only software distribution systems, such as Intel Corp.s LANDesk Management Suite 6.4, start at $50 per managed node in quantity. Furthermore, the open-source community has improved the LinuxConf utility for network management and building various SNMP tools such as Net-SNMP.

eWeek Labs test server farm consisted of six workstations set up as Web servers. Three of them were running Red Hat Linux 6.2, and three were running Calderas OpenLinux eServer 2.3.1. We installed two RPM (RedHat Package Manager) packages, required for managing systems with Volution.

Volutions manual is a mere 120 pages, which we found inadequate to document such a complex enterprise- level application. Its explanations are not concise, nor does it provide many examples. Not all requirements are noted—for example, there is no reference to needing a DNS (Domain Name System) server, nor are workarounds given for sites without a DNS server.

We had outstanding technical help, but the average system administrator must pay for this. The maintenance cost of Volution is based on its purchase price. For the first year, maintenance costs 20 percent of the sale price; for the second year, its 30 percent; and for the third year, its 40 percent.

The process of adding software to Volutions software repository needs to be dramatically improved. To add software, we had to type a command three screens wide without syntax errors. Applications to be distributed can only reside in the repository, which can grow quite large and unwieldy.

After the software was in the repository, we were able to install applications by creating a profile, editing it in install mode, editing the RPM list, editing install scripts and finally attaching the profile to a computer group. Volution gives no notification upon completion of installation.