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Cfengine Upgrades Nova 2.0

Cfengine, which created a free, open source data center management tool, is introducing an upgrade of its commercial version of the product that automates the provisioning, configuration management, compliance and policy enforcement for enterprise server environments. Nova 2.0 is an upgrade of Cfengine's previous Nova 1.0 tool for managing server configuration for Linux, Unix, Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Cfengine's tool automates server configuration, replacing manual scripting of configuration commands in languages such as Perl, Python or Ruby. Instead, Cfengine's solution, based on its own proprietary language, creates configurations built on model-based and pattern-based approaches.

Cfengine claims its tools are simpler to use and less expensive than configuration solutions from major vendors such as CA, BMC, HP and IBM, which can cost $800 or $900 per server, officials said. Nova 2.0, by comparison costs $4,999 for a license that covers up to 100 physical or virtual servers. The price also includes a standard support contract for up to 15 support "incidents." A premium contract for $14,995 covers 115 servers and up to 25 incidents. Other features of Nova 2.0 will include operational reliability standards based on regulatory compliance demands, virtualization and cloud computing support, lightweight data warehousing capability and features to deal with complex computing environments.

The Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, which does grant-funded oceanographic research, has used the free, open source Cfengine configuration management tool in the past, but recently started using the first Nova 1.0 commercial tool. It'll now migrate to Nova 2.0, said James Genus, system administrator for the Maine-based facility.

Automated configuration management has become necessary as the lab moves from a decentralized to a centralized model and its 16 researchers need a more stable platform for their work, Genus said. "The biggest issue, frankly, is human intervention. To the degree that you can remove that, it guarantees the stability of your network," he said. In the past, many different researchers did configuration management manually and it was hard to keep track of how to configure each tool for a specific task, Genus said. "Now, whenever someone sits down to do their work, [their computer] works. The machine is going to run in the state that we have determined in advance."