By Grant Gross
Imagine you're a systems administrator whose job is to keep track of dozens of machines running several versions of Linux. You spend hours each week making sure each machine is running at its best, more time scouring the Web for updates, and more time yet making sure those updates don't conflict with other software.
WhatifLinux wants to make your job easier.
The goal of the Web-based service, launched by Acrylis Inc. this spring, is to help Linux administrators monitor and manage their Open Source software assets. The service includes:
A knowledge base including all the latest Open Source software alerts, releases and other information;
An "Intelligent Agent," a Java-based application with the ability to profile subscribers' servers, proactively delivering information the system administrator can use. The agents use system-specific policies to determine when set thresholds are crossed, and diagnostic action is needed;
"What if" decision support, giving the administrator analysis about what happens if he or she tweaks a piece of software or installs something new. "If I'm going to install package A, we tell you what the impact will be on packages B, C and G," says Reg Broughton, president and CEO of Acrylis. "We help make sure installing and uninstalling are done right. We're kind of an insurance policy."
The selling point for WhatifLinux, Broughton says, is that it's both comprehensive and up to date. "We hope to save a lot of system administrator time, because of lot of their job is spent looking around the Web for alerts," he adds. "If Linux continues to grow, there will be more and more issues for the system administrator to take care of."
David Winchell, CTO of Acrylis customer and potential partner Mission Critical Linux, says he appreciates the real-time information WhatifLinux.com provides. "If an alert is posted to some obscure Web site, the sysadmins don't have to be constantly looking for it," he says. "If there's a hole, it can be fixed right away."
With the product tied to your whole network, you can also make updates en masse, Broughton says. "Imagine you have 50 machines to update," he adds. "You can have 50 people do it themselves, or you can give a system administrator some central authority to do it."
The subscription-based WhatifLinux.com, launched in April, has a graphic-based console sysadmins can use, or they can elect to have alerts emailed. Corporate pricing starts at $100 per server per month with volume discounts available, and the North Chelmsford, Mass.,-based Acrylis plans to soon announce a pricing level for individual users.