GFI Max to MSPs: It's Time to Manage Linux Devices

managed_linux_toolsIs there a need for MSPs to remotely monitor and manage Linux devices? Apparently yes. For the second time in recent days, a major managed services software supplier says it's making Linux moves. The latest example involves GFI Software disclosing a two-step Linux strategy. I'm not suggesting Linux will rule the world. But the trend is clear: MSPs need to push beyond their Windows heritage and must now support mixed customer environments. Here's why.

Consider the facts:
  • Within large hosting centers: Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Novell SUSE Linux and several other Linux distributions are now industry standards running side-by-side with Windows Server and Unix. And Red Hat has started to certify its cloud partners.
  • Within large and midsize organizations: Linux runs on roughly one-third of all servers, according to best-guess estimates from Gartner, IDC and other research firms.
  • On desktops: Linux is still a super-small niche but Red Hat is beta testing hosted desktop virtualization software and Dell continues to ship Ubuntu Linux on a range of systems.
  • On notebooks and netbooks: Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo continue to introduce a range of Linux devices -- even at a time when Windows 7 is winning positive feedback from early customers.
  • The Google factor: Anybody else keeping close tabs on Google Android and Google Chrome OS?

MSPs Supporting Linux?

With those trends in mind, I'm not surprised to see GFI MAX RemoteManagement (formerly HoundDog Technologies) announcing a two-step approach to Linux device management. The first step involves SNMP checks. The second step involves a full-blown Linux agent.

According to Alistair Forbes, GFI MAX Chief Technical Officer:
“Over the last year we have seen an increase in Linux-based systems in the SMB market as the technology has matured and been proven in the enterprise market. As a result, our customers are looking for us to provide the capabilities that they currently use on Windows-based systems to give them the same control, efficiency and automation benefits upon which they have come to depend,”
According to GFI, the company's software now supports a series of pre-defined SNMP checks to monitor key parameters on Linux such as CPU, memory, disk space and processes. And sometime within the first half of 2010, GFI Software intends to offer a full Linux agent.

The Linux Opportunity

GFI Software isn't alone. Companies like Bomgar have long offered remote Linux support. N-able wrote its management platform atop Linux. And a few days ago, Kaseya Executive VP Jim Alves gave me an update on Kaseya's long-awaited Linux efforts (as described in this video):

Check in with your RMM (remote monitoring and management) company and you'll likely discover established or forthcoming Linux support. Still, I'm somewhat surprised by how long it's taking some companies to deliver on their Linux promises.

Discuss this Video 4

Joe Panettieri (not verified)
on Jan 18, 2010
Rob: Please keep MSPmentor posted as you hear from MSPs that are actively managing Linux end-customers. I'm not suggesting a wholesale shift from Windows to Linux. But I do keep hearing from readers who increasingly manage mixed environments. And we want to be sure to cover the trend accurately. Best -jp
Rob Bissett (not verified)
on Jan 14, 2010
Hi Joe: It is interesting to see the increasing attention that is being paid to Linux in the MSP space. Clearly Linux has always enjoyed market share in the Mid Enterprise. Over the last few years it has continued to attract attention is the SMB space as well. This is something N-able has always recognized and have provided a Linux Agent and comprehensive SNMP based monitoring since 2002, as well as introducing SSH and VNC based remote control of Linux devices in 2008. Hopefully this increased attention will continue to create some attention for linux in the MSP / SMB space which can only increase Operating System competition and resulting services opportunities for the Channel. Rob Bissett Director of Product Management N-able Technologies
Gerson (not verified)
on Jan 14, 2010
Interesting but before we get Linux support I know I'd personally like to see better mac support - which right now has a larger share than Linux albeit still small. It's up to us MSPs to demand expanded platform support .
Joe Panettieri (not verified)
on Jan 14, 2010
Gerson: I'm typing this comment on a Mac so I agree. Check in with individual PSA and RMM providers and you'll hear stronger and stronger Mac support stories -- though progress varies from company to company. And a few MSPs -- such as Forget Computers -- have bet the bulk of their business on Apple customers. -jp
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