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Best Open Source Tools for Staying on Top of Projects | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Apr 3, 2019 12:21 PM PT

The type of organizing tools you use to plan your projects can make your work routine more efficient and improve your productivity. A project management application is an essential tool in some business environments.

This week’s Linux Picks and Pans takes a deep dive into some of the best project management software solutions available for the Linux desktop. Project management applications are sophisticated and feature-rich. They duplicate some of the tools and exceed the best productivity features found in our recent roundups highlighting
Time-Tracking,
Task Management/To-Do List and
Personal Information Manager applications.

A key requirement for use of any project management planning tool is familiarity with Gantt charts and other types of chart displays. The Gantt concept is to design a graphical rendition of a project task-by-task with dependencies drawn into the tree and project milestones defined.

The Gantt chart is a project management standard developed in 1917 by Henry Gantt. In its most basic form, the Gantt chart shows tasks on a series of horizontal timelines. The timeline measures progress for either short-term or long-term intervals.

Several of the project management applications in this roundup include Gantt-style displays. Here are some other factors to consider in selecting project management software for the Linux OS:

  • How the application handles resource management
  • The application’s ease of use
  • How the software handles third-party integrations
  • What allowances the software makes for agile workflow and effective time-tracking

The applications included in this roundup are not presented in any ranked order. Some may be available in distro repositories. Other packages may be available only with manual installation.

Some of the open source products in this project management roundup provide the core feature bundle along with essential services for free. You may have to pay fees for extensions, more comprehensive service, and support packages.

Planner: No Nonsense Project Structuring

Planner is a project management tool based on the work breakdown structure (WBS) concept. Planner’s goal is to be an easy-to-use, no-nonsense project management application. It stores project data in XML files and can be printed to PDF or exported to HTML for easy viewing from any Web browser.


Planner project management open source software

Planner’s binary releases are provided by the various Linux distributions.

– click image to enlarge –


The WBS approach provides a common framework for the natural development of the project’s overall planning and control. It is the basis for dividing work into definable increments. From that framework, you can create a workflow statement that includes technical, schedule, cost, and labor hour reporting.

This technique defines and organizes the total scope of a project. It lets you compartmentalize subordinate costs for tasks, materials, and such into their successively higher level “parent” tasks, materials, etc. For each element of the work breakdown structure, you generate a description of the task to be performed.

Planner is organized around the primary products of the project (or planned outcomes) instead of the work needed to produce the products (planned actions). It includes two major display components:

  • A Gantt chart lets you visualize the project in time segments. You can adjust the time needed for tasks or define dependencies between them with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.
  • Task view shows the complete breakdown of your project along with the estimated cost and effort needed. This helps you spot assignment conflicts so you can rearrange schedules.

Other handy features help you track resource usage. You can print to a PDF file or export to an HTML. Either way, Planner gives you a useful summary in a single file that you can send via email to project participants who can view the report with a PDF viewer or a Web browser rather than an installed copy of the Planner application.

Binary releases are provided by the various Linux distributions. The last new release is version 0.14.6 in December 2011.

GanttProject: Packs Planning Power and Portability

GanttProject, compared to other project management tools for Linux, such as TaskJuggler and Planner, delivers fewer planning features. However, what it does have available may be all that you need if you are not in a large corporate setting.


GanttProject screenshot

GanttProject’s tool set offers a simplified approach to planning and controlling resources and schedules to meet a project’s objectives.

– click image to enlarge –


GanttProject’s toolset offers a simplified approach to planning and controlling resources and schedules to meet the objectives of a project. What you get is a variety of task building, project charting and milestone implementation tools. These come at you in a series of bars, graphs and charts.

A GPL open source application, it offers project scheduling as its main function. It is a file-based project management tool that comes with a good starting set of features, including resource management through resource load charts. It supports MS Project files and produces reports in PDF, spreadsheet and HTML formats for easy distribution to team members.

This basic feature set may not be the best solution for seasoned project managers looking for a management product that is not so limiting. Still, GanttProject is the go-to choice for small businesses that do not need high-end extra features found in other project management packages.

GanttProject’s user interface is structured clearly so it is easy to understand. Despite this ease of use, first-time project manager app users will need to familiarize themselves with how Gantt charts and similar tools function.

GanttProject lets you break down a project into a tree of tasks to assign available human resources to work on each task. This makes it easy to establish dependencies between tasks. This approach prevents you from starting one task until an essential prerequisite task is completed.

One of the nicest assets is GanttProject’s portability. You can export some or all of a project’s parameters in .xml format with ease. Also, you can import and export project information to and from MS Project files or text files.

Portability is simplified by the ability to export GanttProject charts as PNG images, or to generate PDF and HTML reports. Similarly, GanttProject can import projects from and export them to Microsoft Project formats. This type of functionality often causes data inaccuracies in some data-heavy programs.

The latest version is 2.8.10, a DEB package for Ubuntu, Mint and other Debian-based Linux distributions. Java Runtime is not included in the package but is listed in the dependencies.

TaskJuggler Makes Balancing Project Tasks More Flexible

TaskJuggler uses a different approach to project management than traditional Gantt charts use. Its goal is to plan and track project details with more flexibility. It covers the complete spectrum of project management tasks and focuses on project scoping, resource assignment, and cost and revenue planning, as well as risk and communication management.


TaskJuggler screenshot

TaskJuggler’s flexible scheduling approach allows you to plan your project as you go.

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TaskJuggler optimizes scheduling by computing your project timeliness and resource assignments based on the project outline and the constraints you provide. It does this using a built-in resource balancer tool and consistency checker. This helps you eliminate irrelevant details and alerts you if the project gets out of hand.

This flexible approach allows you to plan your project as you go. It makes an ideal solution using new management strategies such as extreme programming and Agile project management.

Written in Ruby, TaskJuggler is easily installable and usable. It does not need a graphical user interface. A command shell, a plain text editor (no word processor!) and a Web browser are all you need for your work.

TaskJuggler’s features include components to manage tasks, resources and accounts of your project. It includes a powerful to-do list management tool and a detailed reference manual. It also has advanced scheduling tools that include automatic resource leveling and task conflict resolution.

The scheduling process lets you use an unlimited number of baseline scenarios of the same project for assessing what-if analysis, flexible working hours, and leave management. It also has support for shift working and multiple time zones.

Accounting issues are a key part of TaskJuggler. It tracks initial costs and finishing costs. It addresses resources through usage-based costs and resource base cost models. It supports profit/loss analysis.

TaskJuggler has scaling and enterprise features that let you combine related smaller projects with larger projects. It includes support for a central resource allocation database and manages roles and complex reporting lines.

TaskJuggler is a bit more modern than some of the other project managers in this roundup. Version 3.6.0 was released on in March 2016.

OpenProj: A Microsoft Project Replacement

If you are familiar with MS Project and want a clone-like alternative for Linux, check out OpenProj. Its user interface is very similar. OpenProj opens existing MS Project files and is interoperable with Gantt Charts and PERT charts.


OpenProj screenshot

OpenProj makes it easy to define the project’s objectives and specify the work details.


OpenProj comes in three options: Community (free), Cloud and Enterprise. The features are more significant for the latter two options. The community version offers an impressive feature set and in many cases works well for individual and SMB use cases. More professional productivity features are available for users who subscribe to the Cloud and Enterprise Editions.

OpenProj’s design is clean, uncluttered and well organized with an intuitive and easy-to-use graphical user interface. It comes with advanced feature tools. It covers essential business requirements: CRM, HRM and financial management, as well as workflows that can be set up for approval.

Like Planner, OpenProj supports the graphic view of work breakdown structure. Unlike other options in this roundup, OpenProj has no resource leveling function and can not export data to a spreadsheet.

However, OpenProj makes it easy to define the project’s objectives and specify the work details. It is easy to analyze the required activities and create a detailed plan that shows how and when the project will provide the deliverables defined in the project scope.

Other components include time tracking, cost reporting and budgeting. Team members can create the project wiki to help manage project documentation, references, guidelines and user manuals.

This application started out as a Java-based open source project management tool developed in 2007. Serena Software acquired the product in 2008 and stopped its development. Micro Focus in May 2016 acquired Serena. In 2012, the original creators of OpenProj forked the abandoned code and developed ProjectLibre (see below), which initially was released in 2012.

OpenProj Version 1.4 is the latest release, updated on March 10, 2019. It is no longer compatible with MS Project, however. As far as I can tell, it is available only as an RPM package, so it is not universally available for all species of Linux distros.

dotProject: Browser-Based MS Project Alternative

dotProject is a project management solution for small and mid-sized businesses that do not have to focus on extensive financial management issues as a part of tracking project processes. Its biggest advantage is an easy-to-use interface. Other pluses include the ability of multiple users to work collaboratively, which makes issue-tracking easier.


dotProject screenshot

One of dotProject’s biggest advantages is its easy-to-use interface. (Image Credit: LinuxHelp)

– click image to enlarge –


dotProject is a Web-based framework that includes modules for companies, projects, tasks (with Gantt charts), forums, files, calendar, contacts, tickets/helpdesk, multilanguage support, user/module permissions and themes.

It was developed originally as an open source replacement for Microsoft Project. It has a similar user interface plus additional project management functionality. Critics and reviewers regard dotProject as one of the best-maintained open source project management applications available. It has an intuitive browser-based interface and offers a full collection of advanced project management tools for multiple users, as well as time-tracking tools.

Task Management features include Task Description, Task Assigning, Project Scheduling and Task Duration. The application has nodal user permissions, discussion dashboards, Gantt charts, contact lists, file checkout, reporting, and user-based or list-based task features.

dotProject suffers from several potential drawbacks. One is the need for advanced expertise for installation. Another makes it less practical for small businesses and home users: It must run on a Web server and is not a standalone application.

The latest stable edition is version 2.1.8, released in July 2013.

ProjectLibre: Mapping the Critical Path

ProjectLibre is another open source alternative to Microsoft Project. ProjectLibre is compatible with Microsoft Project 2003, 2007 and 2010 files.


ProjectLibre screenshot

ProjectLibre uses a similar ribbon interface to MS Project, which helps new users easily transition to this alternative.


This is a free Web-based open source application. ProjectLibre is an ideal project management application for small to mid-sized businesses that have single project requirements.

An enterprise cloud version coming soon will be offered as a simple monthly subscription. The cloud version is best for teams and for managing multiple projects.

ProjectLibre uses a ribbon interface that allows users familiar with MS Project to transition easily to this alternative. For example, creating a project plan involves the same approach: List and indent a task list or apply a work breakdown structure.

The application supports setting durations, links, predecessors and resources in a similar manner to MS Project. Also supported are creating budgets and managing expenses.

ProjectLibre’s core functionality includes Gantt charts, network diagrams, work breakdown structure charts, resource breakdown structure charts, earned value costing and resource histograms. These are comparable to features in Microsoft Project.

ProjectLibre lets you set dependencies, create a project baseline, and use multiple calendars to define working and nonworking days for different resources. It also has reporting functionality, such as for displaying project details, resource information and task information.

Released under the Common Public Attribution License, ProjectLibre qualifies as free software.

The latest version, 1.8.0, was modified in May 2018.

Bottom Line

Project management applications for Linux offer an overlapping range of features and user interfaces. I deliberately avoided ranking these Linux products. I also suspended the usual star rating for each one in this roundup.

Project Management software for Linux, much like Time-tracking, Task Management and To-Do List software for Linux, is increasingly overshadowed by cloud services. That is one reason open source applications available for the Linux platform lack many new non-cloud contenders.

Most of the open source products in this roundup are available for Windows and Mac computers as well. Even the Web-based open source platforms for product management applications are available for free. With the exception of the Web-based products, they share one characteristic: None of them has a very recent new release.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
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Top Open Source Tools for Staying on Time and on Task | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Jan 11, 2019 10:53 AM PT

Keeping up to date with multiple daily activity calendars, tons of information, and long must-do lists can be a never-ending challenge. This week’s Linux Picks and Pans reviews the best open source Personal Information Managers (PIMs) that will serve you well on whatever Linux distribution you run.

In theory, computer tools should make managing a flood of personal and business information child’s play. In practice, however, many PIM tool sets are isolated from your other devices. This, of course, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to share essential information across your smartphone, desktop, laptop and tablet.

There are some obvious cloud solutions that ease the hassle of accessing personal and business information across devices. For instance, you can access Microsoft’s proprietary OneNote software for free via the cloud on your Linux gear, including Android and Chromebook devices.

As long as you have a free Microsoft email account, you can access your OneNote content directly from your browser or via the OneNote app available for most platforms. The only roadblock with Microsoft is using it on portable devices (laptops and tablets) beyond a certain screen size.

Google offers similar cloud-based PIM solutions with its Keep note-taking and Tasks to-do list services. Keep has numerous features for cataloging notes and imported images using labels and color options. Tasks lets you enter a simple event to track, as well as drill down to storing details and due dates.

If you use Google’s Chrome Web browser, you can integrate both the Keep and Tasks content as part of the Google Calendar display for added flexibility.

OneNote, Tasks and Keep serve different purposes and let you take the PIM process only so far. All three solutions lack specific tracking and reminder features that true PIM packages provide. Still, they do provide a reliable measure of cross-platform access for basic PIM functionality.

You already may be using these Microsoft or Google cloud-based tools. However, if your needs do not require sharing information on multiple devices, one of the following more traditional Linux PIM packages may be more to your liking.

Osmo: Info Management Done Simple

Osmo is a lightweight yet feature-heavy do-it-all PIM for any Linux desktop. It is an ideal all-around PIM that manages appointments, tasks, contacts and notes.


Osmo full-featured do-it-all PIM for any Linux desktop

Osmo is a full-featured do-it-all PIM for any Linux desktop. It manages appointments, tasks, contacts and notes.


Osmo’s design is not unlike other datebook-style calendars. You can choose a horizontal or vertical orientation. The preferences panel lets you juggle several appearance and functionality options for each of the components. These include the Calendar, Task List, Contacts and Notes databases. You even can hide PIM components to match the way you use Osmo.

Osmo employs a plain XML database to store all personal data. Find this file on the hard drive and copy it to a thumb drive to make Osmo portable, and to update the PIM on other Linux devices. Osmo does not have a real file storage exchange mechanism. A backup and restore features helps to automate this process.

Moving around the app is simple. Click the tab for the desired component. The display shows the current month with markers indicating days with events entered. Below the current month’s display is a selector arrow to show previous and next month.

The day note icon pops up a note entry screen for the selected date and shows it at the bottom of the app window. The day note panel has a tool row of buttons to modify the text display of information you enter.

The Notes panel is surprisingly flexible. For instance, the opening note screen shows a file-list type of directory display. You can use its dropdown menus to select a note category. A handy search window lets you find information in the notes database rapidly. Icons let you add a new note, select an existing note for editing, or delete a note from the list.

The contact component in Osmo is fairly slick. It has an icon and tool row along with a search window similar to the Notes component. These include New, Remove and Edit buttons. The search box finds matches as you type. The contact panel also has options to show birthdays, and buttons to import and export contacts.

A nice touch is a globe button that shows a contact’s location on a map. Osmo lets you choose either Google, Bing or OpenStreetMap as a map provider source.

While Osmo does not sync with other computers or a Web-based calendar, it does much of what you would expect from a solid PIM. Osmo does very well what it was designed to do — keep track of your lists, calendar events and contacts.

Osmo’s Last Update: 8-26-2018

Journal Life With RedNotebook

RedNotebook is built around the concept of a simple design with enhanced features. This application is much more than a daily diary maker. Its flexible design is a perfect platform for storing notes and information tracking.


RedNotebook

RedNotebook’s flexible design is a perfect platform for storing notes and information tracking.


It is an information magnet that lets you add files, links, images and notes divided into categories. Assigning tags to your entries adds a sophisticated way to organize the content. The ability to insert images, files and links to websites makes it very viable as a general note-taking program.

The design incorporates tags and other cool navigational features that drive RedNotebook’s functionality. Its interface is divided into three parts.

On the left is the calendar. Click a day within any month to see the content appear in the display panel in the center. The annotations panel is to the right. Annotations are notes that elaborate on the basic diary entry. You can sort annotations into categories easily.

RedNotebook’s features include easy calendar navigation, numerous customizable templates, export functionality and word clouds. It also lets you format, tag and search your entries, something that other diary and note apps do not offer.

Along with spell-checking capability, RedNotebook has some nice advanced-level features, including the ability to export in PDF format, drag and drop content between entries, and display markup highlighting. Plus, it automatically saves at set intervals and upon exit.

To facilitate use on multiple computers, you can save your journals on a remote server. The application by default makes Zipped backup copies of all entries upon exit.

Another cool feature is Word Cloud. RedNotebook keeps track of your most-often-used words in the note entries. Click on the Clouds tab to view this list. Select your category or tag clouds by clicking on the scroll-down menu. Right click on any words in the cloud that you want removed. Or you can add these words to the blacklist menu in the Preferences menu option to filter them out.

Use RedNotebook for a combination of things to keep track of daily information, activities and links to other reference files. You also can use it to maintain a running to-do list. The advantage to this feature is never having to enter a start or end date.

Last Update: 11-15-2018

qOrganizing for Multiple Device Use

qOrganizer goes a long way toward solving usage issues on multiple computers. This PIM does a nice job of going head-to-head with other information managers to track and manage your day.

You might have some trouble getting it from your distro’s repository, however. qOrganizer is readily available at Sourceforge, but it is available only in 32-bit architecture. You will have to unzip the archived file and manually install the program. Still, qOrganizer should run on your system and is worthy of a tryout.


qOrganizer

qOrganizer has a useful collection of tools that give it an edge over other PIM solutions.


qOrganizer is a general organizer that includes a calendar with schedule, reminders, journal/notes and a to-do list. Its comprehensive collection of components and simple interface give this app a fresh, innovative approach to tracking your important activities.

One of gOrganizer’s most unique components makes it a cool tool for the academic set, both high school and college level. Its Timetable and Booklet features are unique to general purpose PIMs.

qOrganizer has an intuitive design so it mostly works the way you would use a handwritten day planner with pen on a page. Click an entry line and type your information. All the controls are handled by icons that switch easily from Calendar to To-Do List and other features. Icons in the tool row put every control one click away.

This PIM automatically saves all your data. You can choose the storing mode: text files, an SQlite database or MySQL database for transferring over the Internet. This gives you a way to sort of sync your PIM content on all your computers.

This app prints each module as a separate page, so you can carry a printed version of just the calendar, the to-do list, the timetable or the booklet.

Finding information stored in qOrganizer is fast and easy. A search window with previous and next buttons is located on the bottom right of the display. This tool searches for the entry data in any of the components.

A neat feature is data entry shortcuts. You can enter the number in the to-do start and deadline columns. The full date appears. The Priority column lets you enter a ranking number for each task. Click the arrow that appears in the entry line to have date selection calendar pop up.

The right side of the task display is the completed column. You can enter a number to show the percent of completion. A progress bar fills in the line.

The calendar page display is a split screen. The month fills the top left. The bottom left is the daily schedule for the highlighted date. The right side of the panel is the journal or note entry for the selected calendar date.

qOrganizer has a useful collection of tools that gives it an edge over other PIM solutions. It is too bad that the developer no longer provides updates for this open source project.

Making Informational Kontact

Kontact has its roots in the K Desktop environment. Originally, it was an integral set of tools designed as part of the KDE desktop. It still is.

However, you can use this integrated PIM with nearly any Linux distro. In most cases, any dependencies will be installed along with the core Kontact components.


Kontact information manager

Kontact’s integration makes it a more powerful information manager than other tools in this roundup. It displays email, address books, calendars, tasks, news feeds and other personal or business data in one window.


The integration built into Kontact makes it a more powerful information manager than other tools in this roundup. It supports the display of email, address books, calendars, tasks, news feeds and other personal or business data in one window.

The integration includes a PIM back end and the graphical applications connecting to the back end. The components include agents to merge new data with the existing data set, such as contacts and news.

This integration involves groupware servers that give your workgroup members access to shared email folders, group task lists, calendar sharing, central address books and meeting scheduling.

Kontact is not one program. In essence, it is a symbiotic collection of essential KDE tools.

One of its key components is Akonadi. This is a framework named after the oracle goddess of justice in Ghana. This framework provides applications with a centralized database to store, index and retrieve personal information, including emails, contacts, calendars, events, journals, alarms and notes.

Kontact’s other components:

  • Akregator — to read selected news feeds;
  • KAddressBook — to manage contacts;
  • KMail — to provide mail client services;
  • KNotes — to post sticky notes on the Desktop;
  • KOrganizer — to provide calendar, scheduling and journal/notes management;
  • Summary — to display an information summary screen;
  • KJots — to organize your ideas into a notebook structure that includes calendars, information and to-do lists.

This multifaceted PIM package helps you manage your information overload more easily. The result is better productivity and efficiency. The combination of tools and back-end servers offers additional benefits of group collaboration as a business tool.

Makagiga: The All-in-One PIM

Makagiga is an easy-to-use PIM solution that does everything. The project is about four years young. In fact, compared to the other products in this roundup, it is one of the most modern approaches to managing personal information.


Makagiga interface

Makagiga uses a modern, smart interface that contributes to its intuitive ability to handle to-do listing, text editing and RSS reading. It uses add-ons to implement its various capabilities.


Makagiga does just about anything you need it to do. It is a capable to-do manager. It handles note-taking with ease. It edits images you package into your notes.

Plus, it uses plug-ins to provide Web searching, an OpenStreetMap viewer, a thesaurus, and a LaTex/ Markdown/BB Code previewer. It can capture screenshots to integrate as notes, and it can generate bar codes.

Makagiga uses a modern, smart interface that contributes to its intuitive ability to handle to-do listing, text editing and RSS reading. It uses add-ons to implement its various capabilities.

Among them are a collection of widgets to provide calendars and sticky notes.

The main window displays a tree directory view for folders and feeds to the left. It shows a large pin board to the right. The window uses tabs to show changing content in the pin board — Widgets, Calendar and To-Do list.

A horizontal menu bar sits at the top of the main window.

A settings dialog sits under the settings option of both the View and Tools menu. Dialogues configure the software. The menu structure changes when a pin board tab is activated.

You can find the settings dialog for designing the view by selecting the Widgets tab. The three context-sensitive menus (Wallpaper, Colors and Border, Workspaces) are used to enhance the pin board’s visual appearance. Basic modifications are performed in the Tools | Settings menu.

The To-Do manager is one of the best in this roundup. You can set task priorities, assign them dates/times, and even organize them into categories. You also can add colors and tags for more organizational distinctions.

The Image editor has options to resize, rotate or flip pictures. It also has simple annotation tools and an inventory of filters and special effects.

The Notepad is more basic than I prefer. It limps along without a find-and-replace function. It does have word count, syntax highlighting and an HTML preview.

This application has mouse gesture support for 17 actions you can perform easily.

Latest version: Makagiga 6.4 | 11-17-2018

Bottom Line

Personal Information Management is a software category being overshadowed by cloud services and dedicated apps on portable devices. That is one reason there are few new contenders among open source PIM applications available for the Linux platform.

The titles in this roundup are solid performers. They offer a variety of options. They also share a similar look and feel. So trying out several of these PIMs is easy. Compare the features, and choose the best tool to meet your needs.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Top Trends Impacting Enterprise Infrastructure


Enterprise infrastructure teams are under massive pressure as the cloud continues to upend traditional IT architectures and ways of providing service to the business. Companies are on a quest to reap the speed and agility benefits of cloud and automation, and infrastructure pros must keep up.

In this rapidly changing IT environment, new technologies are challenging the status quo. Traditional gear such as dedicated servers, storage arrays, and network hardware still have their place, but companies are increasingly looking to the cloud, automation, and software-defined technologies to pursue their digital initiatives.

According to IDC, by 2020, the heavy workload demands of next-generation applications and IT architectures will have forced 55% of enterprises to modernize their data center assets by updating their existing facilities or deploying new facilities.

Moreover, by the end of next year, the need for better agility and manageability will lead companies focused on digital transformation to migrate more than 50% of their IT infrastructure in their data center and edge locations to a software-defined model, IDC predicts. This shift will speed adoption of advanced architectures such as containers, analysts said.

Keith Townsend, founder of The CTO Advisor and Interop ITX Infrastructure Track Chair, keeps a close eye the evolution of IT infrastructure. On the next pages, read his advice on what he sees as the top technologies and trends for infrastructure pros today: hyperconvergence, network disaggregation, cloud migration strategies, and new abstraction layers such as containers.

(Image: Timofeev Vladimir/Shutterstock)

Get live advice on networking, storage, and data center technologies to build the foundation to support software-driven IT and the cloud. Attend the Infrastructure Track at Interop ITX, April 30-May 4, 2018. Register now!

 



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Hybrid Cloud: 4 Top Use Cases


In the early days of cloud computing, experts talked a lot about the relative merits of public and private clouds and which would be the better choice for enterprises. These days, most enterprises aren’t deciding between public or private clouds; they have both. Hybrid and multi-cloud environments have become the norm.

However, setting up a true hybrid cloud, with integration between a public cloud and private cloud environment, can be very challenging.

“If the end user does not have specific applications in mind about what they are building [a hybrid cloud] for and what they are doing, we find that they typically fail,” Camberley Bates, managing director and analyst at Evaluator Group, told me in an interview.

So which use cases are best suited to the hybrid cloud? Bates highlighted three scenarios where organizations are experiencing the greatest success with their hybrid cloud initiatives, and one use case that’s popular but more challenging.

1. Disaster recovery and business continuity

Setting up an independent environment for disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity purposes can be a very costly proposition. Using a hybrid cloud setup, where the on-premises data center fails over to a public cloud service in the case of an emergency, is much more affordable. Plus, it can give enterprises access to IT resources in a geographic location far enough away from their primary site that they are unlikely to be affected by the same disaster events.

Bates noted that costs are usually big driver for choosing hybrid cloud over other DR options. With hybrid cloud, “I have a flexible environment where I’m not paying for all of that infrastructure all the time constantly.” she said. “I have the ability to expand very rapidly if I need to. I have a low-cost environment. So if I combine those pieces, suddenly disaster recovery as an insurance policy environment is cost effective.”

2. Archive

Using a hybrid cloud for archive data has very similar benefits as disaster recovery, and enterprises often undertake DR and archive hybrid cloud efforts simultaneously.

“There’s somewhat of a belief system that some people have that the cloud is cheaper than on-prem, which is not necessarily true,” cautioned Bates. However, she added, “It is really cheap to put data at rest in a hybrid cloud for long periods of time. So if I have data that is truly at rest and I’m not moving it in and out, it’s very cost effective.”

3. DevOps application development

Another area where enterprises are experiencing a lot of success with hybrid clouds is with application development. As organizations have embraced DevOps and agile methodologies, IT teams are looking for ways to speed up the development process.

Bates said, “The DevOps guys are using [public cloud] to set up and do application development.” She explained, “The public cloud is very simple and easy to use. It’s very fast to get going with it.”

But once applications are ready to deploy in production, many enterprises choose to move them back to the on-premises data center, often for data governance or cost reasons, Bates explained. The hybrid cloud model makes it possible for the organization to meet its needs for speed and flexibility in development, as well as its needs for stability, easy management, security, and low costs in production.

4. Cloud bursting

Many organizations are also interested in using a hybrid cloud for “cloud bursting.” That is, they want to run their applications in a private cloud until demand for resources reaches a certain level, at which point they would fail over to a public cloud service.

However, Bates said, “Cloud bursting is a desire and a desirable capability, but it is not easy to set up, is what our research found.”

Bates has seen some companies, particularly financial trading companies, be successful with hybrid cloud setups, but this particular use case continues to be very challenging to put into practice.

Learn more about why enterprises are adopting hybrid cloud and best practices that lead to favorable outcomes at Camberley Bates’ Interop ITX session, “Hybrid Cloud Success & Failure: Use Cases & Technology Options.” 

Get live advice on networking, storage, and data center technologies to build the foundation to support software-driven IT and the cloud. Attend the Infrastructure Track at Interop ITX, April 30-May 4, 2018. Register now!

 



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IT Pros Review Top Vendors


Users cite pros and cons of HPE BladeSystem, Cisco UCS B-series, and Lenovo Flex System

In many enterprise organizations, blade servers reduce an enterprise’s footprint by saving space and reducing overall power consumption. IT professionals consider a number of factors when selecting a blade server for their enterprise, including a variety of hardware integrations, easy management, and minimal energy usage.

According to product reviews by IT Central Station users, top blade server vendors in the market include HPE BladeSystem, Cisco UCS B-Series Blade Servers, and Lenovo Flex System Blade Servers.

Here is what our users have to say about working with these products, describing which features they find most valuable and offering insight on where they see room for improvement.

HPE BladeSystem

A senior network administrator at a government agency said he finds HPE BladeSystems’ remote management capabilities as one of its most valuable features:

“Having implemented this solution, it has enabled us to have remote management of equipment problems, to identify the power for reviewing the status of errors without having to be on-site, but remotely from anywhere required. It allows immediate access to the server management and immediate detection of the access logs.”

An enterprise architect at a financial services firm lauds the virtualization capabilities of the product:

“The virtual connect side of networking and the manageability through that is by far the biggest win for us. The blades come and go as racks do, but the virtualization back of it means a lot less hands on and a lot more manageability.”

 

However, the systems engineer of business technology at a transportation company noted that HPE BladeSystems can improve in terms of scalability:

“I would like to see better scalability. We have been using this solution for five years, and sometimes there are scalability issues with relatively older generations. If planned well in advance, it will make your life easier.”

Cisco UCS B-Series

Matthew M., a data center practice manager, takes a holistic point of view on what makes the Cisco UCS B-Series blade server valuable.

“The UCS environment as a whole. The hardware is easily swappable and, utilizing the boot from SAN option, you can always keep your server intact due to the service profiles. So if your blade has failures and you have a hot spare, you can transfer the service profile to a new blade and be operational in mere minutes. Huge for uptime and perfect for environments like VMware ESXi hosts, which is what I use them for primarily.”

A senior system specialist at a construction company wrote that running Cisco UCS in a Vblock infrastructure is particularly beneficial for his company:

“Running in the VCE Vblock gives us the flexibility to deploy a large virtual workload of servers. We use a mix of mainly Windows servers and a few Linux appliances. I had one blade server fail. The replacement was up and operating quickly after the blade server was swapped over.”

But Brad F., a data center systems engineer, noted areas where the Cisco UCS B-Series that could improve:

“The HTML5 interface is a much needed improvement over the old Java interface, but still needs a little work. When customers are first introduced to UCS, the setup is somewhat complex. Yet the learning curve is reasonable.”

Lenovo Flex System Blade Servers

Alejandro D., system X & P/blade/storage/ SAN hardware and software support specialist, cited Lenovo Blade Servers’ redundancy as a valuable feature:

“The features of this product that I value most are total redundancy in all its components: power, cooling, communications, fiber, administration and blades, and a data center in 8U; you can accommodate 14 servers in a BladeCenter H chassis.”

Muhammad S., a senior system administrator at a consumer goods company, provided insight into the product’s central management capabilities:

“Central management of all blade servers and performance: It helps us to access blade servers remotely even at boot time, as well, when we can access the BIOS setup remotely. Other than that, we can restart and shut down blade servers from a single console.”

However, Amirreza Y., a design and development engineer at a communications service provider, said the Lenovo falls short on the storage front:

“The storage part of this product needs to be improved. If storage is also attached to this bundle, it would be a good solution for the databases… In the new version of this product, the Flex System, the storage feature is also available with the CPU and memory.”



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