More fuel for the Simian fire – how does free sound?

March 15th, 2012 by Allister Banks

Well we’ve been busy keeping our finger on the pulse of the Mac-managing open source community, and that genuine interest and participation continues to pay off. Earlier, we highlighted how inexpensive and mature the Simian project running on Google App Engine (GAE for short) is, although as of this writing refreshed documentation is still forthcoming. In that article we mentioned only one tool needs to be run on a Mac as part of maintaining packages posted to the service, and an attempt is being made to remove even the need for that. This new project was originally¬†announced here, and has a growing number of collaborators. But that isn’t the biggest news about Managed Software Update (Munki) and Simian we have to announce today.

A technique that had been previously overlooked is now proven to be functional that allows you to use Simian as the repository of all of your configurations, but serve the actual packages from an arbitrary URL. Theoretically, if you take the publicly available pkginfo files, modify them to point to a web server on your LAN, (or even the vendors website directly, if you want them to be available from anywhere,) and your GAE service would fall under the free utilization limits with very little maintenance effort. This is big for institutions with a tight budget and/or multiple locations that want to take advantage of the App Engine platforms availability and Simian’s great interface. Beyond helping you save on bandwidth usage, this can also help control where your licensed software is stored.

Previously people have wished they could adapt Google’s code to run on their local network with the¬†TyphoonAE beta project, but versus the recommended & supported method to deploy the server component, this is a great middle ground that brings down a barrier for folks having difficulty forecasting costs.

It’s an exciting time, with many fully-featured offerings to consider.

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