Google open sources its Mac deployment engine
Post China hack Apple love
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. ®
It is not for remote support it is for remote deployment
ARD and its bretheren are priceless for remote support.
They are not really a bulk patch/update management tool even on Apple which has very reasonable scripting to assist in this.
What google has done is dragging Apple kicking and screaming into the enterprise network. The equivalents to this will be SMS, Radia and the like and not ARD. Now anyone and everyone can deploy an Apple desktop while still being compliant to company policies some of which are not optional as they stem from industry regulation.
It will be quite interesting to observe how this will change the enterprise desktop market (because it will).
(ARD)ly worth it
I used to admin around 100 macs and ARD regularly refused to play nicely with the odd machine, a minor pain if the machine was sat in a room at the other end of the building.
Try looking after thousands of Macs in multiple buildings in multiple countries, needs to work first time every time!
A matter of time, really.
But it's good news to see more enterprise-y mac management tools. Even if this stuff happens to mostly be useful to google and those shops that don't mind to update macs from google's app thingy. That's probably going to be freelance mac admins, not so much enterprises other than google themselves, for the time being. But hey, now that it's open source, the improvements that aren't dependent on google infrastructure might be merged back into munki, no?