Red Hat Network

April 11, 2005

This product is part of Red Hat's Enterprise Linux offerings, so for the test we decided to install all the discs. We were a bit concerned over how it would fare, as our normal experiences of updating Linux involve clicking on the exclamation mark in the bottom corner of the screen and launching Up2date, Red Hat's auto-updater. If you have updated Windows, you will have a good idea how this works.

In Linux, there are a number of other ways to keep the operating system up to date, and the Red Hat Network chooses a graphical user interface. There are separate command line utilities called Yum and Apt also available via other distributions.

We wanted to test how well the software worked in a multiple Linux-unit environment. The management module is used to roll out patches to a number of machines at a time.

Systems Grouping is where a number of machines can be grouped together so patches can be rolled out to all, instead of having to manually visit individual machines. Each group displays how many units are in that group and their current status.

Updates for the machines are noted by a yellow or white exclamation mark, on a red disc for critical updates.

Different administrators can be given various degrees of permissions to update certain sets of servers through the Systems Permissions page of the interface.

There are also pages for setting scheduled updates and scripting for provisioning new systems. One great feature is the ability to provision a system to take on the state of another machine, a kind of cloning feature as it were. There is also a handy rollback feature should anything go wrong.

Overall, this is a good, well-rounded patch management system for servers running Red Hat Linux.

There is plenty for administrators to use, not only for managing the patching of systems but also to roll out a fully-functioning server to a bare system.

We were only able to test these features in an all-Red Hat environment, so we could not determine whether the functionality extends to updating other Linux distributions.

Product title
Red Hat Network
Product info
Name: Red Hat Network (Group Test: Patch management 2005) Description: Price: Enterprise level $96 per system per year
Strength
Well-rounded management app.
Weakness
May not manage non-Red Hat Linux distributions.
Verdict
Worth considering for Red Hat environments.
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