With its acquisition of SuSE and Ximian and its open source focus, Novell has
very quickly gone from a niche player in the open source Linux world to being a
major force with which to contend. Even more, with broad support from companies
like Novell and IBM, Linux and related services stand to quickly gain traction
in the corporate marketplace.
A long-time contender in the race for the Linux desktop, Novell’s Ximian
unit—formerly a standalone company—has released some compelling new products in
the past few months. Starting with the newest Gnome-based Ximian Desktop 2 and
most recently with the release of Red Carpet Enterprise 2, the Ximian unit at
Novell aims to bring both ease of use as well as centralised management to the
Linux operating environment.
What is Red Carpet
Simply put, Red Carpet Enterprise 2 (RCE2) is a member
of the Novell Resource Management line of products designed to greatly simplify
the package installation and upgrade process across a variety of Linux platforms
from Red Hat and SuSE.
As more and more Linux servers are deployed across
the enterprise and as Linux continues to creep its way onto the desktop, it
becomes increasingly important to have an easy way to maintain the complex
package hierarchy that you inevitably run into when deploying Linux. A
consistent computing environment at both the server and desktop level can
greatly ease the management burden on IT staff and can result in fewer conflicts
since everything is the same across the board.
RCE2 has a number of
features that make it very suitable for enterprise package management
- The ability to resolve both dependencies and conflicts as a part of the
package installation and update process.
- A complete command line interface to allow granular scripting.
- A scheduling facility to allow updates to happen at a time convenient for
- Integration with SuSE and Red Hat package update systems.
- The ability to roll back to a previous installation in the event of a
- The ability to create RCE2 caching servers for remote, bandwidth-starved
- Security features designed to protect your enterprise computing environment.
- The ability to use either Oracle or PostgreSQL as the backend
supports various flavors of Red Hat, SuSE, and Mandrake Linux as well as Solaris
under certain circumstances. Specifically, RCE2 supports package management for
the following client operating systems:
How does RCE2
- Red Hat Linux 7.2, 7.3, 8, 9, Red Hat Advanced Server 2.1
- Mandrake 9.1, 9.2
- SuSE 8.2, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8, SuSE Linux Desktop 1.0
- Solaris 8 (using RPMs)
RCE2 has a couple of key components: the RCE2 server and the
RCE2 client software. The RCE2 server has to be run on one of a very few
specific versions of Linux. Ximian indicates that the server must run on a Red
Hat Linux 7.3/9, Red Hat Advanced Server 2.1, or SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8
system with at least 512 MB RAM, an 800-MHz or better processor, and at least 2
GB available on the disk for database and package storage. Ximian also
recommends that this be a dedicated server that does not perform other
The RCE2 server requires a backend database for its storage. With
support for both Oracle and the superb PostgreSQL open source database, this
requirement shouldn’t be a problem for any organisation.Channels
Like it’s older cousin—Red Carpet (not the
Enterprise version)—RCE2 works on the concept of channels; a channel contains
the packages for a specific product or update into which users are subscribed
either individually or via groups. For more complex applications, RCE2 has the
ability to define sets of packages for better control.Administration and infrastructure
The RCE2 server
features a complete Web-based management interface and allows multiple
administrators the ability to manage package sets, machines, and users.
Furthermore, RCE2 sports a complete command line interface allowing you to
create scripts to perform common administrative tasks related to the service
without having to use the Web GUI. Even better, the designers responsible for
RCE2 have anticipated the human tendency to make mistakes once in a while and
have provided a useful rollback function that can place a client system back
into a previous configuration. RCE2 also supports pre- and post-installation
scripting allowing you to shut down certain services before a deployment or
reboot a system after a deployment, for example.
In an effort to reduce
the administrative overhead required to support a number of Linux machines, RCE2
is also capable of automatically detecting the client OS and will show only the
pertinent packages, saving you from having to wade through a plethora of useless
and confusing packages. Furthermore, RCE2 automatically resolves potential
conflict problems and makes the appropriate package adjustments to ensure a
RCE2 can scale to the enterprise level with some of
its unique features. The Red Carpet Cache provides administrators with the
option of deploying a caching RCE2 server on a remote network that might have
limited bandwidth. The administrator can then deploy from the local caching
server rather than depending on the WAN connection. Furthermore, RCE2 provides
the ability to deploy but not install a particular set of packages.Security
RCE2 uses a number of standard security
features including SSL for package transfer and MD5/GPG checksums to ensure that
the package being installed can be trusted. RCE2 is designed to be deployed
behind the corporate firewall.Rolling out Red
With an eye on Linux in the enterprise, Ximian’s Red Carpet
Enterprise 2 product is in a great place to provide a valuable service for large
Linux installations. Package management in Linux can be somewhat complex,
especially considering the huge number of permutations in packages available for
the open source OS. Different versions of packages on the desktop could quickly
grow out of control for an administrator. Pricing for RCE2 starts at $200 per
management system, but volume pricing is available.