A Look At an Apt Solution


Configuration management are two simple words describing a process that strikes fear in the hearts of solution providers everywhere. You've helped your clients deploy Linux servers and now Linux on the desktop. Your clients are running a variety of services much less expensively than before. And now, a simple package upgrade makes the whole environment seem a downright unfriendly, impenetrable tangle of modules incompatible with any upgrade or installation you want to apply to the system.

Sound familiar? Well, Linux configuration management need not lead to development of an unhealthy phobia. An application called Apt makes the entire process quite simple. Originally developed as the Advanced Packaging Tool for Debian, Apt now runs on many Linux flavors, including Red Hat. Apt easily handles configuration-management tasks, including package upgrades, installations and removals, and deftly handles package dependencies, downloading correct packages and modifying configuration files where necessary.

Any solution provider who has spent time deploying Linux and followed that by installing or upgrading a package is well-aware of the familiar error message: "
requires glibc version x.y.z." Most of us have followed the seemingly innocent trail and tried to upgrade glibc only to find that there are 12 other packages dependent on the currently installed version of glibc. And so the chase begins. You can follow this maze into the darkest depths of Linux packages. I have known solution providers who generally take one of three options when faced with this maze of package dependencies: They force the upgrade or installation regardless of package dependencies, hoping that a catastrophe doesn't ensue; they perform an entire system upgrade to the latest release to get the one package they really want; or they completely abandon the mission. Apt does away with having to make such choices and gives solution providers a new option.

You can download Apt by visiting the site of your favorite Linux distribution or at freshrpms.net. Once installed, it is easy to use and has a very simple command-line interface. Also, additional configuration is usually not required if your version of Linux is listed as being supported. If your version is not listed under supported versions, configuration files need to be checked to ensure that the proper Apt repositories are listed. A simple Internet search will unearth repositories suitable for most versions and distributions of Linux.

With the configuration completed, run the command "apt-get update" to populate the local databases used by Apt in other operations. Once the command completes successfully, Apt is ready to do your configuration-management bidding.

For most distributions and versions, Apt is a breeze to install, requires no additional configuration and saves hours of chasing through a maze of modules.

Kevin Carlson (kevinc@watchfire.com) is with Atlanta-based Watchfire, an online business-management software and services provider.