Zorin OS is one of those Linux distributions that never ceases to amaze. It offers a user interface that can be configured to look and feel very much like other operating systems, and targets users new to Linux. Although it succeeds quite well with that target audience, the platform has a feature arriving sometime in Summer 2020 that is sure to turn admin heads.
That feature is Zorin Grid.
This new feature will enable businesses, schools, and other organizations to easily manage all of their computers from a single point of entry. With Zorin Grid you’ll be able to set up, manage, and secure an entire rollout of Zorin OS-powered computers.
Security policies, app installations and updates, system monitoring, hardware/software inventory, desktop configurations, and more, all handled from within a cloud-based GUI dashboard.
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How Zorin Grid works
Zorin Grid makes onboarding of systems incredibly fast. Once you have the server configured, you install the client software on the target PC, link it to the organization on the server, and accept the enrollment on the Zorin Grid Dashboard. Zorin Grid will then automatically apply all of the configurations you have set up on the server to the client.
If your business requires compartmentalizing systems into groups, Zorin Grid allows you to create groups for teams or departments. When a system is added to a group, all relevant apps, configurations, and policies for that group are applied.
This is a brilliant example of how Linux shines within the realm of Software as a Service. Because Zorin Grid is a cloud-based system, you are able to manage all of the Zorin OS-based PCs within your company from any web browser.
The cost and the release
As of this moment, the price for Zorin Grid has not been finalized. However, it is known that schools and non-profit organizations will get the solution at a reduced price. Although the client-side portion of Zorin Grid will be open source, the server side will start out proprietary. It has been revealed that the server solution could end up being released under some open source license.
Zorin also plans on supporting other Linux distributions, starting with Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based systems. That will happen once the official release of Zorin Grid has passed.
This is the part where I get to take off my journalist hat and don my open source fedora to talk about what Zorin Grid means to open source. The first thing any member of the open source community will react to will be that Zorin isn’t releasing the server portion of the system under the GPL.
To that I say, good for them.
Why would I dare spout such blasphemy against open source and all that it stands for? Simple. In order for businesses to keep the lights on, they have to make money. This is something that every business peddling open source products perfectly understands. Without income, there is no product. Without a product, there’s no reason to have a business.
So the company behind Zorin is doing the right thing in not releasing the server end of the product as open source. Let them make some profit from the technology to help keep the business up and running and then, at some point, figure out a way to release the code while not affecting the bottom line.
Outside of the licensing issue, this is huge for the open source community. Yes, there are other technologies that can do similar things, but none of them are capable of doing so with such ease. Sure, you could use Ansible, or a combination of Ansible and Rundeck, to do something similar, but there’s a considerable learning curve involved.
If Zorin Grid can deliver on the promise of simplicity, the implications of this technology will run deep into the Linux community. In fact, something like this could be that which brings about a tectonic shift in the world of IT. Zorin Grid could make it possible for more and more enterprise businesses to adopt Linux as their next desktop solution.
Linux is an incredibly powerful, stable, and flexible platform, but to date, the OS hasn’t had the means for admins to easily manage large rollouts with a level of simplicity demanded by busy systems administrators. Those who administer large companies don’t always have time to write complicated YAML files to produce successful deployments. Hopefully, Zorin Grid will take that complexity and turn it into a point-and-click affair that any admin can handle.
That translates to pure possibility for Linux. And once Zorin Grid will be able to operate with other distributions, the possibilities become limitless. Instead of only being able to control desktops, it might even extend to the likes of CentOS Server or even RHEL or SUSE Enterprise Linux.
Let that sink in for a bit. A management system for rollouts that includes a combination of Linux desktops and servers, regardless of distribution.
That’s Zorin Grid.
Make sure you join the Zorin Grid notification mailing list, so you are made aware the second the technology is available.