Open Source Systems Management Goes Pro

Hoping to monetize its open source software development,Qlusters this week is making available openQRM Pro, a specialized version of its systems management software, for sale.

Like its open source openQRM datacenter provisioning and management software — which works with Solaris, FreeBSD, Windows and Linux operating systems — openQRM Pro also works with other systems management and virtualization technologies, including Nagios, VMware and Xen.

Unlike the open source version, however, openQRM Pro features specialized plug-ins to allow automation of server provisioning and “requisitioning,” the real world technical and administrative process of allocating server power, Qlusters Chief Technology Officer William Hurley told LinuxInsider.

“We’ve taken the framework and focused on very specific problems in the datacenter,” he said.

Evolutionary Strategy

In a sense, openQRM represents a full-circle move: from proprietary to open source to commercial product development. Hurley said the company hopes to monetize its more robust openQRM Pro, but the open source development of openQRM will continue.

“We’re finding ways to monetize it by leaving that community free,” he said.

Qlusters does sell support for openQRM, but its stability means most users just use it, Hurley said, noting that it has garnered nearly 50,000 downloads since its release in January. The company sees much more opportunity in its new openQRM Pro, which will be available through subscriptions that include updates, installation assistance, trouble ticketing and support, patches and fixes.

Faster Management

Larger IT architectures often have unrecognized or underutilized servers that get caught up in provisioning, approval and policy, noted Hurley.

“It’s hard to keep track of what’s available, and whose department has which server,” he said.

To cut down on the time it takes to implement a new server, openQRM Pro simplifies the process through a Web portal that accepts requests for hardware and software, and automates approval, provisioning and monitoring with detailed reporting throughout.

Features of openQRM Pro — which supports network environments with virtual LANs (local area networks), multiple storage islands and LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol) server integration — include diskless server support, policy-driven resource allocation, and automatic, policy-based deprovisioning.

Crowded Market

IT managers are certainly looking for more automation and simplicity in dealing with ever more complex networks — particularly through technologies such as multiple server instances through virtualization — and there are many different solutions available to them, Illuminata Senior Analyst Gordon Haff told LinuxInsider.

“There are so many of these little nichey, clustery and coordinated applications out there — I think it’s frankly pretty difficult for most of them to rise above the general buzz,” he said.

Haff downplayed the open source aspect of openQRM, stressing that functionality and support are the real keys to such systems management solutions.

“The question really comes down to, how is it delivered to end users?” Haff said.

Some applications may be ideal for greenfield, or new, IT deployments, but Haff emphasized that in reality, they must work with existing servers and management solutions.

Ongoing Project

OpenQRM and the new openQRM Pro could work with a variety of other server, virtualization and management solutions, Hurley pointed out.

While he highlighted an active community of 58 external developers working on openQRM all over the world, Hurley said Qlusters is focused on the North American market. The company will announce a major customer soon, he said, and expects to release an enterprise version of openQRM next year.

Hurley also referred to efforts to enhance existing plug-ins for openQRM and build new ones. A European customer, for example, built a plug-in for power consumption that turns a server off when it is in a high availability, or unused, state.

“There’s all this stuff going on with openQRM,” Hurley said. “This project is not even a year old yet, so it’s tremendous what it’s doing.”

Causing a Stir

Open source systems management solutions such as Qlusters, Nagios and Groundworks are “causing a stir” in the space and forcing proprietary vendors large and small to take notice, Enterprise Management Associates Senior Analyst Andi Mann told LinuxInsider.

Large players such as BMC previously had a tight hold on the market, he noted, but it is now opening up, particularly to open source players that bring the right combination of software license, flexibility and Linux stability to the table.

By retaining management and control of physical servers — including requisitioning — and adding virtualization management, Qlusters has created a unique offering, Mann remarked.

“Qlusters is focused on the need to integrate management of physical and virtual environments,” he said, “and not a lot of people are doing that.”

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