nwu - an introduction

This article should give you a brief overview of what network-wide updates, one of my projects, is about.

Network wide updates, or nwu, is a free software package licensed under the GPL (version 3 or later). It allows an administrator to remotely install software on and roll out security upgrades to managed computers. It is targeted at GNU/Linux systems using the Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) for package management and thus should run fine on all GNU/Linux distributions based on Debian GNU/Linux (such as gNewSense and all Ubuntu flavors).

It further gathers data about all managed computers in a database, which gives the administrator an overview about which systems are managed, the hardware configurations they have, the software installed on them and pending security updates.

The system is split into two major components: the server, which is the central management point, and the clients, usually referred to as agents, which report to the server.

Now let's go into nasty technical details. nwu is implemented in Python, using XML-RPC and python-gnutls (and this way the GnuTLS library) for secure communication between the server and its agents. It further makes use of X.509-certificate authentication and provides an integrated CA-system which simplifies use of this method a great deal.

Currently nwu is in an alpha development stage, but moving forward quite fast. We are expecting to be able to release a stable version quite soon.

The development team is made up of Yves Junqueira and myself right now, but we would be happy to accept contributions from others.

If you are interested in nwu development you should probably watch this blog, as I am going to write about recent developments here.

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