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Expect big changes from Red Hat Satellite 6

Red Hat overhauled its Satellite server management tool in version 6, which means a lot more functionality and features but a complex adjustment period for server admins.

Red Hat Satellite 6 allows Linux server administrators to manage patches and configuration without individually touching each server. Version 6 is a rebuild, which means more efficient operation but also a difficult transition for existing Satellite users.

Linux administrators feel an increased need to manage many servers efficiently, and they have choices in the tools to do it. Spacewalk, founded by Red Hat in 2008, is a free and open source systems management tool; Red Hat Satellite spun out of Spacewalk. Other products have been derived from Spacewalk as well, such as SUSE Manager.

In Satellite 6, Red Hat completely re-engineered the software because Red Hat Satellite 5 didn't always manage systems in a very efficient way, and it had some scalability problems. Satellite 6 is built from the ground up as a federation of several upstream open source projects, including Katello, Foreman, Pulp and Candlepin.

Red Hat Satellite 6 source material

Spacewalk is the upstream open source systems management package upon which Red Hat based Satellite 6.

Katello provides content management.

Foreman offers configuration and provisioning capabilities.

Pulp manages repositories of content.

Candlepin keeps software subscriptions in order.

An easy or hard transition to Satellite 6

Several problems arose with this major revamp of Red Hat Satellite, upsetting many current users. In extended support, Red Hat will continue to back Satellite 5 until 2019, but by then Red Hat Linux shops must implement the new package.

For current Red Hat Satellite users there is no in-place upgrade to Satellite 6, because the underlying technology of versions 5 and 6 are so different. Red Hat Satellite 6 will need to be installed on a new server; the migration to 6 is a side-by-side transition. Red Hat is issuing one-year transition licenses that allow customers to run both versions side by side, which indicates just how much effort current Satellite users will expend to upgrade.

To install Red Hat Satellite 6, users set up the Satellite 6 server beside 5, and run the exporter command-line tool on Satellite 5. The resulting data must then be copied to Satellite 6. From there, execute the importer command-line tool from Satellite 6.

But it isn't that easy. Too many Satellite 5 users just run the exporter and importer tools and consider the work done. Satellite 6 is a completely new product -- with new functions and a new underlying structure. Just copying over the data from Satellite 5 to Satellite 6 without having a thorough understanding of these differences yields only disappointment.

This difficult transition process is typical of Red Hat in recent years, and you'll see it between versions 6 and 7 as well. It allows Red Hat to offer functionality that is really new, and helps administrators who are using Linux in a completely new way. But change is never easy, which is probably why so many administrators haven't grown to like Red Hat Satellite 6 yet.

Turbulence for SUSE Linux users

The transition to Satellite 6 is problematic for other Linux distributions as well -- SUSE in particular. SUSE Manager has been available for several years. The fact that Red Hat is using other upstream projects for Satellite 6 means it is taking away a lot of development efforts from the Spacewalk project.

SUSE and other Linux distributors will need to invest more in upstream development to keep their branded systems management products up to date.

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