Research and Development

Easy Linux Administration for Schools With Puavo

Here at Opinsys we've been scratching our itch for better user management tools for quite some time. We work with some hundred schools around Finland and provide them Ubuntu based systems. Although the needs differ quite a bit between them, there are also quite a few similar needs - user and device management being one of those.

We searched and evaluated various user management tools, but none of them were exactly what we needed - something that suits schools with no technical staff, is easy to use and works nicely in LDAP+kerberos environment. We decided to start something from scratch and integrate it with everything we need. After many coding hours we have now Puavo shaping for real use.

I'm personally really excited about it. It combines web apps with Ubuntu LTSP systems and laptops and makes it all work together. Complex sounding technical features like LDAP, kerberos and SSL certificates are handled automatically in the background. A single installation can be shared with multiple schools and all the data can be replicated easily. Yet the admin user interface is simple.

Puavo is an open source admin tool that manages LDAP, kerberos and SSL certificates so that integrating with great open source components is as easy as possible. It is designed for schools and focuses on linux management needs.

Here's an example of how I see Puavo deployed. A single management cluster somewhere in the cloud serving many schools. Every school has a replica of their own data for speed and reliability. User and device information is in the database that all applications share. Backups can be done in a single place in the cloud.

Puavo is by means not ready. There are still features missing, bugs lurking and documentation is lagging behind. But it is making our lives better, so I hope it is useful to other too.

Puavo couldn't exist without many incredible open source components and now also Puavo's source code is available from GitHub. Puavo is licensed under GPL v2+ and it is built with Ruby on Rails. Currently there are three components:

Installation requires still quite a few manual steps, but we are working on making it easier. I'll be writing more soon to help you get started.

Happy hacking!

Veli-Matti Lintu