Inventory software on Linux

Display Options

In many cases, it is not necessary to scan a complete subnet if you only want to retrieve some data on the installed software packages. Open-AudIT therefore focuses on the ability to modify the display below the Queries drop-down menu: This empowers users to retrieve many details on the hardware and software. As a result, it is easier for the administrator to plan changes to the hardware and software resources of individual computer systems.

Visualization

Open-AudIT visualizes the collected data in various forms: In the dashboard, the user sees an initial overview of the scan results, each grouped by periods. You can thus display all the devices detected by the last scan, in the last seven days, or in the last 30 days. This information can be broken down further by detected devices, operating systems, or installed software.

The Map item under Menu in the dashboard informs the user about locations. The Logs item contains the logfiles, which can help with troubleshooting. The user can also access these views via the menubar by selecting the Views entry; the other functions here include automated scanning of a subnet or – for Windows environments – an Active Directory (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Open-AudIT's dashboard provides a visually appealing and clear-cut network overview.

The Reports drop-down in the menubar let you show and print detailed lists on demand; on request, the pre-built templates will even show you devices that have not appeared in scans for some time. Such reports can therefore provide information on lost or stolen components.

Conclusions

The tested inventory solutions left me with a mixed impression. Although they fulfill the expected tasks, they have limitations. All three solutions suffer from a cumbersome and error-prone installation that is not state of the art in any way. I-doit and opsi provide detailed installation instructions (sometimes several pages long), and Open-AudIT comes with a usable script. However, the risk of errors is great – especially when configuring the LAMP system. In the case of Open-AudIT, the additional installation and customization of SNMP and Nmap are not properly documented.

It is incomprehensible that the developers have not adopted the far more elegant solution of a central installer, in that this solution has already been implemented for many free software packages by the Bitnami project [16].

Opsi has some catching up to do in terms of Linux: The cofunding model for the Linux agent involves significant costs, which makes it uninteresting for small businesses who want to use the system with Linux desktops. The same applies to opsi license management if you use proprietary software and to the planned use of Nagios and the image backup routine. If you need several of these modules, costs can very quickly amount to five figures, and this does not even take support services into account. The concept of client agents deserves some criticism, because it causes additional configuration overhead on the client systems.

The other two candidates show that inventory management can work without agents and that free software can offer strengths and benefits. One positive factor was the clear-cut interface in i-doit that enables immediate access and takes the network infrastructure into account. Also, i-doit provides the most detailed documentation options by far, so the tool covers the entire lifecycle of a complete enterprise IT environment. This makes i-doit the best choice for professional users with a heterogeneous IT infrastructure who view an inventory system as a data source for the accounting department.

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