IT environments are a dynamic situation with changing problematics, requirements and needs of users. System administrators have to face these dynamics while maintaining IT operations. Therefore, they have to regularly deal with new software solutions and check whether they fit the requirements, needs and circumstances of their own IT environment. In this article, we want to show how Univention App Appliances can help with this. As pre-configured virtual images ready for immediate use with an integrated operating system, they can be used to quickly try out new software, switch it off if it fails to deliver the desired results, or, if the evaluation is successful, transfer the test solution to live operation.
Evaluation in manual steps
Let’s say you want to get to know and test the solutions OpenProject and Rocket.Chat. Both are web-based solutions where the software must be installed on a Linux system, such as Debian GNU/Linux, in order to be delivered to the user’s browser via a web server. To do this, you would normally need to perform the following steps:
1. Set up a Debian environment in a suitably dimensioned virtual machine.
2. Download package dependencies for the software.
3. Download and install software.
4. Configure web servers and other services involved.
5. Configure software to suit your needs.
This approach requires a certain amount of experience with Linux and, while providing a lot of control throughout the process, also opens up space for errors. And, provided everything goes well, the estimated time to get everything up and running is roughly at least two hours.
Since in many IT environments the administration of users is carried out via a central directory service, the connection to this service should also be checked – for a test of a new software solution to be realistic. Thus, when configuring the respective solutions for the evaluation, the individual steps for connecting also have to be performed.
If you want to transfer the software solution to continuous operation after successful evaluation, recurring manual steps are required with each update to keep the system up-to-date and on the necessary level of knowledge.
Altogether this procedure requires a significant amount of time, for updates even repeatedly, to maintain the software. It increases costs and the potential space for errors.
Saving Time with Univention App Appliances
As an alternative, the Univention App Appliances are available, which relieve you of manual installation and connection of the directory service and enable you to concentrate on testing the solutions.
An App Appliance is a pre-configured virtual machine where Univention Corporate Server (UCS), based on Debian GNU/Linux, is installed as operating system and a software solution like the above mentioned solutions Rocket.Chat or OpenProject are already installed and integrated into the identity management of UCS. These UCS App Appliances are available for the virtualization solutions VMware, VMware ESXi, VirtualBox and KVM.
Let us now walk together through the individual steps of setting up an appliance with VirtualBox. You can apply the same procedure to any Univention App Appliance.
Download App Appliance and import it into virtualization solution:
Use the Appliance Available filter to get an overview of the solutions for which App Appliances are available in the App catalog and download the corresponding image for your virtualization solution. VMware and VirtualBox are suitable for operation on a notebook. Describing the detailed installation of the virtualization solution for your operating platform, however, is beyond the scope of this article. After downloading the app appliance, it must be imported into VirtualBox and then needs to be started.
1. Go through the System Setup Wizard:
When the appliance starts, the UCS System Setup Wizard will appear and guide you step-by-step through the basic configuration to set the time zone, language, keyboard layout, network configuration, domain setting, administrator password, and machine name.
If you want to run the appliance on its own, select the first item under Domain setup.
If you want the appliance to be part of an existing UCS or AD environment, select the appropriate option here.
The configuration is complete as soon as you see the three-step path (see screenshot) for accessing the appliance.
Open your web browser and enter the address shown in the address bar. You can define an exception for the UCS SSL certificate for Chrome/Chromium and Firefox.
2. Activating the App Appliance:
When the appliance is first accessed via the browser, you are prompted to activate the appliance. Please follow the instructions in the browser. After importing the activation file, you will see the portal page of the appliance and instructions on how to proceed with the respective app.
3. Creating users and activating them for the app:
In order for users to be able to log on to OpenProject, for example, they must first be created in the UCS management system. Important are a user name, a primary e-mail address and the activation for the app under the “Apps” tab.
4. Registration and Start
The user can then log on to the app with their credentials and test the software solution.
Depending on hardware resources and app appliance, the setup takes between 10 and 20 minutes to complete. With the subsequent activation and creation of a first user, a system administrator has a running system that is fully integrated with the identity management in just 30 minutes with the app appliance. Compared to the manual procedure, this is a considerable amount of time saved.
If multiple apps are to be evaluated, they can even be combined into one UCS domain by selecting the option to join an existing UCS domain in the System Setup Wizard under Domain Settings for the next appliance.