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Managing Open-Source Assets: How Linux Changes Your ITAM Strategy


Open-source operating systems have been in use for decades. Once a mystery to all but the most computer savvy users, these operating systems have come a long way in terms of usability and convenience for the modern computer user. With many Linux distributions offering GUI’s similar to Windows and Mac operating systems, deploying these low-cost alternatives can be an attractive option for companies seeking the flexibility and dependability of open-source software.

Open-Source Advantages

One of the most enticing advantages of Unix-based systems is their exceptional reliability and system security. Windows, as the most prolific operating system on the market today, is under constant threat of system vulnerabilities and malicious attacks. It’s far more effective for malware and virus developers to target Windows devices simply because there are more of them; with the very small market share currently claimed by Linux, developing threatening software for that platform is a wasted endeavor. This gives Linux systems a huge security advantage not only against in-system threats like malware but also network-based security risks. By its very design, Linux systems are far more secure from network attacks than traditional Windows operating systems. The built-in compartmentalization of files and programs on a Linux system makes network-wide intrusions difficult or impossible to successfully implement.

On a similar token, the reliability of Linux distributions makes them prime candidates for key systems hardware. Servers, frequently trafficked workstations, and mission-critical components can all be run with Linux operating systems with a high degree of reliability. Even everyday workstations can take advantage of these features with minimal employee training and acclimation.

The Linux-ITAM Connection

These unique advantages cater perfectly to good asset management. Far less time, money, and attention can be paid to the maintenance, upkeep, and security of these assets. Most IT asset management software is now including Linux operating systems in their range of platforms, allowing easy integration of tracking and managing these systems.

With the introduction of Linux operating systems into the mainstream, additional guidelines need to be paid careful attention to ensure management is conducted properly for these assets.

A World of Freedom

Another attractive feature of Linux systems is the huge range of open-source programs available on the internet. If there is a well-known, commonly-used piece of software available for Windows, it’s almost guaranteed a nearly identical piece of software is available for most Linux distributions completely free. Open-source software offers supreme adaptability, consistent updates, and the unique trait of being entirely open. Enterprising systems administrators can take nearly any piece of open-source software and tailor it to the needs of their company as they see fit. All the code is freely available to be worked on, maintained, and distributed as contributors see fit.

The Open-Source Nightmare

It’s easy to see, then, how this can quickly become an asset managers worst nightmare. Gone are the familiar software licenses, scheduled updates, and easy life-cycles of Windows software. These are replaced by code repositories, a dizzying list of optional updates, and a multitude of custom applications.

Tracking and maintaining these systems doesn’t have to be a difficult task, but it does require an adjustment in the way they are managed. While most Linux systems have a large array of files, the number of programs running on any given host is usually very small. In addition, these assets can be tracked on a per-user basis, even with multiple users on the same system, with very little security risk or additional setup being required. Linux-based assets can be entered into any existing ITAM guidelines with very little modification, so long as they are differentiated from the normal, everyday tracking and updating already present.

Extended Software Life-Cycles

Tracking the life-cycle of Linux-based software is generally easier than tracking Windows-based assets. While support for Windows program can often be dropped without notice, support for large-scale open-source software generally continues for many years after a products release. With no licenses to manage, open-source software can be a guaranteed workhorse without the need for a replacement for many years to come. Regular updates and careful selection of those updates is still an important part of maintaining and managing Linux software.

Hardware running Linux distributions should get the same life-cycle predictions and treatment as hardware running Windows operating systems would receive.

Integration of Linux Assets into a Windows Environment

It’s very likely that some kind of Unix-based device is already present in the existing IT ecosystem. Adding additional Linux assets can be treated in much the same way as a Windows system would, so long as attention is paid to the unique ITAM specifications needed for these systems. If an already existing asset management software is present, ensure it is able to document and track Linux software. Management software that incorporates help desk features will also need the option of being installed in Linux systems in order to function properly.

Small Challenges, Big Payoff

Widespread integration of Linux systems for IT can have huge advantages over Windows systems. The reliability, security, and flexibility of these operating systems makes them valued assets in any IT infrastructure. So long as the minor challenges and differences between these systems and the more popular Windows systems are addressed, their use in the workplace is worth the hurdles they present.