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Google open sources its Mac deployment engine

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Google has open sourced its internal software for deploying Mac OS X packages across a network.

Known as Simian, the platform was built after Google's Mac Operations and Security teams evaluated several Mac package deployment tools and failed to find one that suited their needs. After alleged Chinese hackers broke into Google's internal systems in December of 2009, reports indicated that the company had decide to abandon Windows machines entirely and move its entire staff to Mac and Linux machines, and judging from our conversations with company employees, this is indeed the case.

According to Google, Simian is designed to deploy new or updated software to a single Mac or tens of thousands of Macs. It can push out security patches to Macs across internal networks or VPNs as well as machines on other networks. It can require the installation of some software packages while allowing others to be optional. And it can manage updates provided by Apple.

What's more, it runs atop Google App Engine, the company's public service for building and hosting online applications, so it can be deployed without additional internal server infrastructure. Currently, the platform hosts all packages on App Engine's Blobstore, but the team plans to allow packages to be download from other sources in the future. "An example of where this may be useful would be to download the package from a server residing on your corporate/internal network if the client has access at execution time, otherwise download from Blobstore. This will save WAN traffic as well as App Engine quotas," reads the Simian project page.

The tool uses a client based on Munki, a set of Mac deployment tools previously open sourced under an Apache 2.0 license. Munki lets you install software that uses not only the Apple package format but also Adobe CS3/CS4/CS5 Enterprise Deployment packages, and you can drag and drop disk images as installer sources. What's more, it can be configured to install Apple Software Updates, either from Apple's servers or your own.

In essence, Simian takes the server Munki and puts it on App Engine. It has also been open sourced under an Apache license, but some content carries a Creative Commons 3.0-BY license. You can visit the project at Google Code, and you can download the code here. ®

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